Feb. 19, 1983: The Wah Mee Massacre in Seattle

On Feb. 19, 1983, three men bound, robbed and murdered 13 people at the Wah Mee gambling club in Seattle’s International District.

It was the largest mass slaying in state history.

An article in the next day’s issue of The Herald graphically detailed the scene:

“The grisly scene unveiled after police pried open the doors of the Wah Mee club in Seattle’s International District is said to be the largest mass killing in state history.

Police, led to the small club by a critically wounded man, discovered the bodies of 13 people who had been hogtied and shot in the head, some repeatedly.

Bodies, bound hand and foot, were strewn around four gaming tables and floors were so covered with blood that ‘we were all worried about falling in it, it was that thick,’ said police Capt. Mike Slessman …

Wah Mee, which means “Beautiful China,” was a members-only gambling club frequented primarily by older Asians originally from mainland China.”

One of three men convicted in the massacre was paroled in October after serving 30 years in prison.

Then, on Christmas Eve, the 104-year-old building erupted in flames.

Because of structural damage, the Seattle Fire Department said the cause is likely to remain a mystery.

Read more from The Herald’s Feb. 20, 1983, issue and others in our collection of historic front pages.

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