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Friends Had No Idea He Was Violent

THE NATION

Naveed Afzal Haq was troubled but showed no hint of fanaticism, they say, before shootings at a Seattle Jewish center that killed one woman.

July 30, 2006|Sam Howe Verhovek | Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE — The future once seemed very bright for Naveed Afzal Haq, the son of a Pakistan-born civil structural engineer at the Hanford nuclear complex in Washington state.

Bound for a prestigious bio-dentistry program in Philadelphia, Haq had a huge smile on his face in his 1994 senior yearbook photo at Richland High School in south-central Washington. "RHS, Peace Be Unto You" were his parting words to classmates.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday August 02, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 57 words Type of Material: Correction
Seattle shooting: An article Sunday in Section A about the Friday shooting at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle said that the suspect, Naveed Afzal Haq, had been charged with one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder. In fact, he was ordered held on $50-million bail pending formal charges of murder and attempted murder.

It was Haq -- now 30 and facing trial in his hometown on a lewd-conduct charge -- who came to Seattle on Friday and is accused of using two semi-automatic handguns to unload a barrage of bullets inside the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.

To force his way in, he took a 13-year-old girl hostage at gunpoint, police and witnesses said Saturday.

Haq reportedly shouted about his anger toward Jews, toward Israel and its war in Lebanon, and toward U.S. policy in Iraq. One woman, Pam Waechter, 58, the federation's assistant director, was killed, and five other women were injured.

One of the shooting victims -- Dayna Klein, 37, of Seattle -- was credited by police with helping to end the attack.

Police said that about half an hour before the shooting, Haq had been stopped on a minor traffic violation -- for driving down a buses-only lane -- but had done nothing to arouse an officer's suspicion and had been let go.

Those who knew Haq best described him Saturday as a drifting, sad and mentally troubled figure who was a source of worry and embarrassment for his parents, but not anybody's idea of a political or religious zealot inclined toward violence.

He washed out of the dentistry program after a few years and landed back in Richland -- unfocused, unlucky in love and apparently eventually unstable. In March, prosecutors said, he climbed on top of a fountain near a Macy's in a Richland-area mall, unzipped his pants and started exposing himself to women. Haq had been due to go to trial Thursday on the exposure charge, but the trial has been postponed.

On Saturday, shackled and wearing a white jail uniform labeled "ultra security," Haq was charged with one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder, his bail set at $50 million.

He had $12 on him when he was arrested, police said.

Law enforcement authorities, Haq's friends and his parents' friends all said Saturday that Haq's inner motivations remained a mystery. Some speculated he might have sought to cloak an animus toward women by acting as a self-appointed warrior against Israel or against Jews.

Whatever his reasons, Haq had virtually no known history of political activism, and friends described his religious practice -- he is Muslim -- as dutiful and at times dormant, not fanatical.

And those who know him said Saturday that they thought he was troubled, not violent.

"Yes, Naveed was drifting, he was lost, but this alleged crime is a shock beyond belief to all of us," said Muhammad Kaleem Ullah, vice president of the Tri-Cities Islamic Center, a focus of religious and community life for several hundred Muslims who live in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick, the three cities near the confluence of the Columbia and Snake rivers.

"Never did we think of Naveed as violent," said Ullah, a family friend who has known Haq since he was 9 years old. "If you had told me he was on the moon, I could not be more shocked."

Seattle Police Chief R. Gil Kerlikowske said at a news conference Saturday that Haq had entered the federation by hiding behind a lobby plant, then placing a gun to the head of the 13-year-old girl passing by.

The attacker brought two semi-automatic handguns, plus extra ammunition, into the building, which is next to a Starbucks in the Belltown area at the edge of downtown.

The 13-year-old was released as soon as he gained access to the federation offices and was not otherwise injured.

"Once inside, he immediately started firing at people," Kerlikowske said.

At Harborview Medical Center, officials said Saturday that three victims -- Layla Bush, 23, and Cheryl Stumbo, 43, both of Seattle, and Christina Rexroad, 29, of Everett, Wash. -- had been upgraded from critical to serious condition. The other surviving victims, Klein and Carol Goldman, 35, of Seattle, are in satisfactory condition.

About 10 others were in the offices during the attack.

The slain woman, Waechter, grew up in Minnesota as a Lutheran and converted to Judaism after marrying Bill Waechter, an airline pilot, friends said. She became active in the Seattle Jewish community and remained so after her divorce from Waechter. She worked at Jewish Family Service and later at the federation, where she handled outreach and fundraising. She served two terms as president of Temple B'nai Torah of Bellevue, Wash.

The police chief singled out Klein, who is pregnant, as a hero.

She was shot in the arm, he said, because she was shielding her belly. She fell and crawled to her office and dialed 911, Kerlikowske said.

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