Jewish center shooter could get life

Suspect in Seattle murder of Pamela Waechter has history of mental illness.

seattle waechter 298 88 (photo credit: AP)
seattle waechter 298 88
(photo credit: AP)
Prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty against a Pakistani-American man accused of shooting six people, one fatally, at a Jewish charity, because of the suspect's long history of mental illness. King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng said Wednesday he based his decision on Naveed Haq's mental health records from the past decade, though he called the shooting "one of the most serious crimes that has ever occurred in this city." Haq is charged with murder in the death of Pamela Waechter, 58, director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle's annual fundraising campaign, and with five counts of attempted murder in the attack at the federation's downtown offices on July 28. If convicted, Haq would face life in prison without parole. He also faces charges of kidnapping and malicious harassment, the state's hate-crime law. Haq, 31, a US-born Muslim, is accused of opening fire with two semiautomatic pistols at the Jewish center. He told authorities he was angered by the war in Iraq and US military cooperation with Israel. According to a statement of probable cause, Haq told an emergency services dispatcher: "These are Jews and I'm tired of getting pushed around and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East." Haq had been treated for bipolar disorder, deputy prosecutor Don Raz said. A family friend has said Haq had been getting psychiatric help for 10 years and had not been able to hold a job. "We're certainly glad the prosecutor recognized there are significant mental health issues in this case and that the death penalty was just not appropriate under these circumstances," Richards said. He declined to say whether his client still wishes to plead guilty - as he tried to at a hearing this summer. The judge postponed the hearing on the plea, and Haq eventually pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors said Haq waited in the vestibule of the downtown Seattle building until 14-year-old Kelsie Burkum arrived to visit her aunt, Cheryl Stumbo. Prosecutors allege he put a gun into the girl's back and told her, "Open the door." He followed her up the stairs to the second floor, keeping the gun in her back, and started shooting when a woman tried to call authorities, prosecutors said. The shooting ended when Dayna Klein, then 17 weeks pregnant, persuaded the gunman to speak with an emergency operator after he shot her in the arm. He agreed to surrender, put his two guns down and walked out, hands on his head. Klein gave birth to a healthy boy last month. Waechter's grown children, Nicole and Mark, said in a statement that they would not dwell on Maleng's decision or on the defendant. "We choose instead to spend our energies trying to mend our lives in a way that honors our mother and all she meant to us," they said. Haq's parents, Mian and Nahida Haq, issued a statement expressing thanks for Maleng's decision. Mian Haq helped establish a local Islamic Center. "While we are relieved that our son, Naveed Haq, has been spared from the ultimate penalty, the death sentence, we mourn over the death of Pamela Waechter and we share our grief and sorrow with the wounded victims of a very tragic shooting," they said.