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Monday, December 09, 2019

Kansas Attack Brings Back Painful Memories In Seattle

By Christine Clarridge, The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — Cheryl Stumbo felt like she’d been “hit with a ton of bricks” when she learned of the fatal shootings at two Jewish facilities in suburban Kansas City, Mo., on Sunday, allegedly by a white supremacist.

“A shooting on the eve of Passover, a Jewish community center, a hate crime with guns. It’s so unbelievably bad, it knocked me off my feet,” said Stumbo, who survived a gunman’s attack at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle nearly eight years ago.

Stumbo, who has since become an advocate and activist for changes in gun laws, said she could not stop crying for hours after learning of Sunday’s shootings.

Stumbo and five colleagues were shot on July 28, 2006, when Naveed Afzal Haq walked into the federation and opened fire.

Director Pamela Waechter was hit in chest then tried to flee.

Haq chased her down and shot her in the head, killing her.

Stumbo spent six weeks in the hospital recovering from her injuries.

Haq was given two life sentences and an additional 120 years in 2010 for the shootings.

Jurors said they didn’t accept the defense’s contention that Haq was criminally insane at the time of the shootings.

During the seven-week trial, witnesses testified that Haq, who is of Pakistani heritage, railed against Jews and U.S.-Israeli policies as he opened fire in the Jewish Federation, an umbrella organization for the local Jewish community that raises money for social-welfare organizations, runs youth and adult educational programs, and engages in efforts supporting Israel.

Prosecutors agreed that Haq had a mental illness but contended he was sane when he entered the federation and opened fire.

Since the 2006 shooting, Stumbo, 51, has become an advocate for gun responsibility, working as the outreach associate for Mayors Against Illegal Guns and serving on the board of two gun-responsibility alliances.

“One of the biggest tragedies about (Sunday’s shootings) is that it was preventable. Here is a guy who had a history of violence with firearms and yet he, the last person in the world who should have had access to firearms, had access to firearms,” Stumbo said Monday.

Jim DiPeso, the marketing and communications manager for Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, said Sunday’s shootings served as a reminder.

“Any time an event like this occurs, it is a reminder of what we experienced eight years ago and a reminder that we always have to keep safety and security paramount,” he said.

Tammy Ljungblad/Kansas City Star/MCT

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