Violence Prevention Group Sued After Man is Shot and Killed During Meeting – Bearing Arms

Violence Prevention Group Sued After Man is Shot and Killed During Meeting – Bearing Arms

A Seattle gun violence prevention organization is being sued by the family of a man who was shot and killed during a court-mandated appearance at a meeting, accusing the group of failing to provide proper security. 

19-year-old Omari Wallace was facing robbery charges in King County, Washington, but prosecutors allowed him to be diverted into a program run by Community Passageways in lieu of incarceration. While Wallace was attending an orientation meeting in March of 2021, a man walked into the meeting at Emerald City Bible Fellowship and shot Wallace in a targeted attack. The suspect himself was shot and killed by police while they were serving an arrest warrant for homicide, but there were no officers at the meeting itself, even though Community Passageways deals with a lot of individuals who’ve been accused and convicted of violent crimes. 

According to court documents and news reports, there were nearly 40 people in attendance when Hinds entered the Rainier Valley church and shot Wallace. The lawsuit alleges Community Passageways “failed to take reasonable measures to ensure that the participants … were safe from harm.” It also names the church and Urban Impact, another Washington nonprofit, as defendants.

The action claims that after the shooting, Community Passageways staff and members refused to cooperate with investigators, forcing then-King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg to empanel a rare special inquiry to obtain documents, interviews and other information police say they needed for the investigation.

“Both law enforcement and the community at large were bewildered how staff from the Community Passageways, a violence-prevention program which receives millions of dollars in public funding, could watch a murder committed before their eyes and not assist law enforcement,” the lawsuit states.

In a letter to King County prosecutors resisting subpoenas and documents that would help them find Wallace’s killer, officials with Community Passageways said that “[m]aintaining credibility and trust in the community is integral to Community Passageways’ mission, so it must keep in confidence the information young people have entrusted to the organization and its staff,” adding, “Developing a reputation as an investigatory pipeline for law enforcement — despite being inaccurate — would put an end to Community Passageways’ life-changing and wide-ranging work in the community.”

Wallace’s family claims that Community Passageways was supposed to provide security during meetings. It’s still unclear to me whether there was any security at all, but whatever steps were taken weren’t enough to prevent someone who wasn’t a part of the program to stroll into the church, walk up to the second floor, identify Wallace, pull out a handgun, open fire, and then flee the scene. 

While the family is seeking justice for Wallace’s death, city and state officials should be taking a closer look at Community Passageways and the millions of dollars in public funds it receives every year. Seattle is experiencing record-high homicide rates, which is already a red flag that the group’s efforts may not be having an impact. If its staffers were also actively impeding (or at least not cooperating with) a police investigation into a murder committed at one of its meetings, then why on earth should it receive a penny of taxpayer dollars going forward?

I don’t have a problem with “gun violence intervention programs”, at least in theory. But the best programs work in cooperation with law enforcement rather than viewing them as the enemy, and it’s inexplicable to me that the group wouldn’t cooperate with police even after one of their clients was murdered in cold blood during one of its meetings. Maintaining the trust of its clients is one thing, but if it’s at the expense of the public’s trust or safety that is not a fair trade or a worthwhile compromise, and even the looniest of the lefties in Seattle government should be smart enough to realize that. 

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