Though the details of the incident are shaky, police have confirmed that an anti-Trump protester was non-fatally shot outside of a Milo Yiannapolous event at the University of Washington on Friday. The police took the alleged shooter, described as an Asian man, in custody, but have since released him after he told them he thought the protester was a "white supremacist" and he was simply acting in self-defense.
The incident occurred when multiple groups converged outside the Milo event, including anarchists, self-described "anti-fascists," socialists, Trump supporters, and Alt-Righters. Hours before the shooting, police confiscated multiple weapons from the "Resist Trump" forces who gathered earlier to protest, including pipes and wooden poles. That multiple groups were present made for a confusing situation and has resulted in uncertainty about what exactly took place (see timeline of events below).
The protester who was shot is a 34-year-old member of the socialist group Industrial Workers of the World, whose friends say that he is a Bernie Sanders supporter who is always "compassionate" and "empathetic." To demonstrate his anti-fascism, they say he has "an anti-hate tattoo that consists of a black swastika surrounded by a red circle with a slash through it." As of Monday, he was in serious condition after having undergone surgery, but well enough to speak to his lawyer, who said he "wishes to express his empathy for the person who shot him" and "hopes to engage in constructive dialogue with that person, in order to de-escalate and provide a community-based response to this violence."
According to one report, the shooter is a pro-Trump, pro-NRA Asian man who was allegedly stirring up trouble in the crowd, while the victim was innocently trying to keep the peace, though the shooter's account to the police was very different. According to the Seattle Times, the alleged shooter posted a message on Facebook to Yiannopoulos at 7:24 p.m., about an hour before the incident:
Hey Milo. im outside in line to your UW event. I got sucker punched (he was a bit limp wristed) and someone jacked my #MAGA hat. Anyway for me to get a replacement signed by you?
About an hour later, he allegedly shot the protester in what the shooter described as self-defense, telling the police he believed the protester was a "White Supremacist."
When Yiannapoulos heard about the shooting, he announced that he would continue with his speech. "If we don’t continue, they have won," he said ,adding, "If I stopped my event now, we are sending a clear message that they can stop our events by killing people. I am not prepared to do that."
Yiannopoulos: "Donald Trump is president now and there's nothing you can do about it." pic.twitter.com/5becpzm1SX— Katherine Long (@katherinelong) January 21, 2017
The Seattle Times provides a timeline of the events surrounding the shooting, which took place around 8:30 p.m., outside Kane Hall. A summary of that timeline with highlights and excerpts below:
Anti-Trump demonstrators began to gather as early as 2:30 p.m., but things began to get interesting at around 5 p.m. when the Seattle PD showed up in riot gear.
By 6:30 p.m., the police say they had confiscated "wooden poles, pipes and homemade shields" at the park. Clearly, some of the "Resist Trump" forces weren't there for peaceful purposes. The anti-Trump protesters also "hurled bricks and other items at police officers" as well as "fireworks and paint."
Officers have recovered wooden poles, heavy pipes, flares & hammers @ Westlake Pk. pic.twitter.com/dYhuinPP8J— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) January 21, 2017
At around 7 p.m., the doors to venue opened and, "the situation outside became more hostile." As the video below shows, around this time, the Trump supporters appear to be mostly conducting themselves peacefully. Things begin to get physical when an anti-Trump group shouting "F**k Donald Trump!" begin to push into the large crowd. Eventually, police decked out in riot gear move in to break things up:
More details from the Seattle Times' timeline (format adjusted):
8:20 p.m. - Yiannopoulos took the stage. Meanwhile, protesters outside Kane Hall hurled bricks and other items at police officers, according to the Seattle Police Department. They also threw fireworks and paint.
8:30 p.m. - A man was shot among the protesters outside Kane Hall. News of the shooting began to spread among those in attendance of Yiannopoulos’ speech. The right-wing editor of Breitbart left the stage, saying “Stay in your seats. I’ll be right back.” Yiannopoulos later returned to stage and said the show would go on. “If we don’t continue, they have won,” he said as the crowd rose and cheered. ...
Medics took the victim to Harborview Medical Center with a gunshot wound to the abdomen, Seattle Fire said. Alex Franke, a University of Washington student and volunteer medic, was among the first to treat the victim. “He was just lying there,” Franke said. “There was so much blood, it was hard to tell.”
Video from the scene showed protester medics carry the man away from the main confrontation. They were quickly surrounded by police and he was carted off in the back of a small truck as he was helped by officers.
9:20 p.m. - Yiannopoulos’ speech ended, but police would not allow attendees to leave the hall. About 20 minutes later, police told attendees to remove pro-Trump hats and other paraphernalia before leaving. They were led out of the hall through an underground parking garage. A search for the gunman was under way as the shooting victim, 25, underwent surgery at Harborview Medical Center.
1:10 a.m. - Saturday Police said a person of interest in the shooting turned himself in to UW police. But the man was released after telling investigators he fired in self-defense during a campus protest, according to two law-enforcement officials briefed on the case. One of the law-enforcement officials said the man who fired the gun claimed he had been assaulted before shooting the other man, whom he believed to be some type of white supremacist. ... King County prosecutors said they would not make a decision Monday on potential charges.
This article has been updated to include the information about the alleged shooter's Facebook post and the statement from the victim's lawyer.