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4 dead in Seattle shooting: 'No one knows why'

Neighbors look on at the scene of a shooting that left four people dead and another wounded Thursday in Seattle. The woman suspected of firing the shots at the southwest Seattle home apparently is among the dead.
Neighbors look on at the scene of a shooting that left four people dead and another wounded Thursday in Seattle. The woman suspected of firing the shots at the southwest Seattle home apparently is among the dead.Elaine Thompson / AP
/ Source: staff and news service reports

The Seattle-area woman suspected of killing three family members before turning the gun on herself has left relatives and police wondering what could have motivated the attack.

The grandmother allegedly opened fire Thursday afternoon, first killing her son-in-law, then two granddaughters before wounding her daughter as the she fled, a 17-year-old relative told The Seattle Times.

"No one knows why" the woman he knew as "Grandma" attacked, Tony Sun told the newspaper.

"Grandma just shot them for no reason," said Sun, who also told The Times that he arrived home shortly after the shootings and was taken onto a police bus with his surviving family members, who told him what had happened.

Neither police nor the King County medical examiner's office have officially identified the victims, but Sun named the suspected shooter as Chhouy Harm.

Family members described the Cambodian immigrant to The Times as the family's matriarch, but said they suspected she might have been mentally ill.

'My mom has gone crazy'
Police spokesman Sean Whitcomb said officers have not yet determined what triggered the crime.  Asked about a possible motive, Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel told reporters that the lone survivor emergency responders found sitting outside the home only said, "My mom has gone crazy."

Sun named the wounded woman, believed to be the suspected shooter's daughter, as Thyda Harm.  Pugel said medics took the shooting victim to Harborview Medical Center, and doctors expect her to survive.

The deceased included Thyda Harm's husband, Chean Harm Phan, and two of the couple's daughters, Jennifer Harm, 17, and Melina Harm, 14, Sun told The Times.

He added that the couple's 16-year-old son Kevin fled the house with his younger sister, 6-year-old Neveah, as the shooting began. Other family members confirmed the names of those involved, the newspaper reported.

Whitcomb said the medical examiner would formally identify the victims, but an investigator at the office said it does not expect to do so before Friday afternoon.

The crime unfolded Thursday afternoon as officers responded to a report of gunshots at about 1:31 p.m. PST, Pugel said, noting that first responders could still hear shots being fired from the house when they arrived.

He said a man believed to be the suspected shooter's husband broke through a police line to run into the house, and police heard two more shots before he came back out.

"He ran from the house, and told us that there were several people shot inside, and that she apparently had shot herself," Pugel said.

When police were able to go inside, they found the four dead, including a woman in her 50s they believe was the shooter, Whitcomb said.

Both Whitcomb and Pugel said they don't believe anyone else was involved in the shooting.

Family members fled shooting
According to Tony Sun's account to the newspaper, the situation started when Chhouy Harm told his aunt, who was not harmed in the attack, to go into her room and shut the door. The aunt did as told, but waited at the door.

Then she heard gunshots and ran downstairs and out of the house, Sun said.  Thyda Harm's son scooped up his young sister and also fled.

Police said investigators recovered two handguns from the house, which is in a lower middle-class neighborhood a block north of southwest Seattle's city limits. 

Sun told The Times that the family's home was cramped, with 11 members of two families sharing the space.

The newspaper noted that many immigrants live in the area, and that businesses display signs in Vietnamese and Cambodian in addition to English.  Pugel said police encountered a language barrier when speaking to people at the scene, so officers called in colleagues who speak Southeast Asian languages.