Man found guilty in Jewish center attack

SEATTLE — Jurors on Tuesday brought a close to a case described as Washington’s worst hate crime, rejecting claims of legal insanity as they convicted a gunman of a deadly shooting rampage at a Seattle Jewish center in 2006.

Under the verdict, Naveed Haq, a 34-year-old with a long history of mental illness, will spend the rest of his life in prison rather than a state mental hospital, as his attorneys had sought.

“The jury held that holding extremist views does not make you insane, but it does make you dangerous,” King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said.

Haq held a teenage girl at gunpoint as he forced his way into the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle on July 28, 2006, and opened fire, killing Pamela Waechter, director of the charity’s annual fundraising campaign. Five other women were wounded.

Handed a phone by a pregnant woman he had shot in the arm, Haq told an emergency dispatcher he was tired of Jews, Israel and U.S. foreign policy, and he wanted to get on CNN. Then he surrendered.

Haq’s first trial ended last year with the jury deadlocked over whether he should be found not guilty by reason of insanity. Jurors this time had the benefit of evidence not presented during the first trial, including jailhouse recordings of Haq telling his mother, “I did a very good thing. I did it for a good reason.”

Victims, supporters and members of the Jewish Federation wept and hugged as King County Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas read the jury’s guilty verdicts on eight counts of aggravated murder, attempted murder, unlawful imprisonment and malicious harassment, the state’s hate-crime law.

Victim Cheryl Stumbo said the verdict validated her memory of Haq behaving calm and deliberate, not insane, as he stalked the federation offices on that horrific day.

“I couldn’t be happier or more grateful,” she said.

Haq’s attorneys conceded during the trial that Haq had committed the shootings and that he should never be free, but argued that his mental illness was to blame. Haq’s condition had recently worsened due to medication changes, they said.

Prosecutors agreed he was mentally ill but said he nevertheless knew what he was doing during the shooting. They cited his meticulous planning: Haq made several trips to gun stores in the weeks before the attack, wrote two documents on his father’s computer criticizing Israel and U.S. policy in the Middle East, and used MapQuest to find directions to the center from his family’s home in Pasco.

“We waited throughout the trial with an open mind for some evidence he was insane, and it just never came,” said juror John Bennett, 60, of Carnation.

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