One day after a fight in Sylvester Park escalated to a double stabbing that spilled out onto the sidewalks of downtown Olympia Tuesday afternoon, residents and business owners were asking what can be done to make sure the park is safe.
"I just really want to feel safe in my town," said Sarah Fiskness, a lifelong Olympia resident who lives in an apartment complex that faces Sylvester Park. "It's just very disturbing to have someone be stabbed in front of your home."
Fiskness and others said Wednesday that fights between street kids in the park are not uncommon.
The Washington State Patrol assumed sole control of the stabbing investigation Wednesday, because the crimes started in Sylvester Park. The park is owned by the state and is considered an extension of the Capitol Campus, WSP Sgt. Jason Hicks said. The Olympia Police Department was first on scene after Tuesday's stabbing, and its detectives assisted during the initial stages of the investigation.
There was a noticeable increase in the police presence in the park Wednesday, compared with before the stabbing. On Wednesday afternoon, Olympia police bike patrol officer Jeff Herbig spoke to teens who were gathered sitting on the grass in a semicircle. Three uniformed State Patrol troopers also walked or biked through the park, stopping to talk to people as they sat on benches in the sunshine.
During an interview in Sylvester Park Wednesday, Hicks said investigators now believe a 27-year-old man stabbed a 36-year-old man in the abdomen during an altercation in the park about 4:10 p.m. Tuesday. Investigators also believe that the 36-year-old then chased and stabbed the 27-year-old in retaliation, Hicks added.
"We don't think it was a third party who did the stabbing," Hicks said.
The 36-year-old stabbing victim ran down to the railroad tunnel near the Governor Hotel and collapsed after the fight. He was transported by ambulance Tuesday to a local hospital, where he remained in critical condition Wednesday. The 27-year-old was in stable condition at an area hospital after being stabbed in the lower back, Hicks said.
Hicks said Wednesday that the State Patrol routinely patrols Sylvester Park, and two uniformed officers had been patrolling there in the hours before Tuesday's stabbings. He added that Tuesday's stabbings are the first time a violent act of that magnitude has happened in the park in years. In 2009, a man was murdered outside the Greyhound station, and that case is an unsolved homicide belonging to the Olympia Police Department.
Hicks said the patrol does not limit access to the park. "It is a public park, and the public has a right to the park," Hicks said. "We have a responsibility to protect whoever chooses to use the park and I think we do a pretty good job of that."
The park technically closes at dusk, and people are not allowed to camp or sleep there overnight, state Department of Enterprise Services spokesman Jim Erskine said.
Lisa Cosmillo, owner of Breathe yoga studio across from Sylvester Park, said she routinely sees people camping overnight in the park's gazebo.
Cosmillo said one way she plans to respond to the tragedy is to continue to have yoga classes outside in the park. Cosmillo said she wants to set an example of encouraging people to use the park for recreation.
"We have a few classes that meet out there when the weather is good," she said.
Cosmillo said she is still in a state of shock after witnessing the 27-year-old stabbing victim being savagely beaten by a group of 10 to 12 men outsider her business Tuesday.
The 27-year-old tried to escape on an Intercity Transit bus that was stopped on Capitol Way after allegedly committing the first stabbing, but he could not get on, Hicks has said. There was still dried blood on the sidewalk on Capitol Way outside her business Wednesday afternoon.
Hicks said the motive for the initial stabbing is unknown, because detectives have not been able to talk to either stabbing victim as they recover. As soon as the two men are medically cleared, they will be arrested and booked at the Thurston County Jail, he said.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 firstname.lastname@example.org