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'It's not just a Garfield problem.' Students, families push for community safety measures following school shooting

caption: Former Garfield High School student Karima Souleyman is comforted by friends. Souleyman spoke at a community gathering outside school on the morning after a student was fatally shot on campus.
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Former Garfield High School student Karima Souleyman is comforted by friends. Souleyman spoke at a community gathering outside school on the morning after a student was fatally shot on campus.
Liz Jones/KUOW

A growing vigil of flowers and candles lined the front steps at Seattle’s Garfield High school this weekend, in tribute to a 17-year-old student who was fatally shot on campus Thursday. He has been identified by family and his football team as Amarr Murphy.

The morning after the shooting, with Garfield closed for the day, a crowd of students, parents, and community members gathered outside to grieve and call for increased safety measures in the school and surrounding community.

“Something they always say after the shootings and the emails from the principal is ‘make sure you avoid the area, the shooter is still' — girl, I live in the area,” said Althena McDermott, a junior at Garfield, who lives about three blocks from campus.

“It's not just a Garfield problem,” she said. “But even if we can’t fix all the broader community issues right now, school needs to be a safe place for all the students.”

Several parents and students said they want to see more police presence outside the school and stronger measures to keep guns out of kid’s hands.

Thursday’s shooting happened in the school parking lot during the lunch hour, and police said the victim was shot while trying to break up a fight.

RELATED: 17-year-old student dies after being shot multiple times at Seattle’s Garfield High School

Alyssa Marsh, who hoped her son would start ninth grade at Garfield in the fall, said he’s now refusing because he’s keenly aware of violence in the neighborhood and guns in school.

“It’s known around schools that guns are on campus,” Marsh said. “It’s known around schools that there’s gang violence. It’s very well known, even in the middle schools around here.”

caption: Alyssa Marsh, parent of an 8th grader at Washington Middle School who is reconsidering whether to attend Garfield High School next year due to neighborhood gun violence. Marsh joined a community march at Garfield the morning after a fatal school shooting there.
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Alyssa Marsh, parent of an 8th grader at Washington Middle School who is reconsidering whether to attend Garfield High School next year due to neighborhood gun violence. Marsh joined a community march at Garfield the morning after a fatal school shooting there.
Liz Jones/KUOW

Marsh said she worries about the long-term harm for her son and any child who’s exposed to gun violence.

“It’s normalized in this generation,” Marsh said. “He’s like, ‘I’m okay, I’m safe and I’ll be fine.’ But really the long-term trauma is something he couldn’t really even fathom yet. He's fine today but what about tomorrow, or the next day?”

Following the shooting, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said police will remain present at the high school and in the neighborhood, and that he would continue to support the work of community groups seeking to prevent gun violence and to help young people heal from trauma.

In an email to school families Friday, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Brent Jones said his primary concern is the safety and well-being of students and staff, and he underscored the need for more collective action to address community violence.

“We must come together to work to end gun violence,” Jones said. “We know it affects our students and we must do more so they can feel safe in order to learn and thrive. School board leadership and I are talking with Mayor Harrell and working together for change in our city. The work to stop gun violence requires collective efforts, and our commitment must be unwavering.”

RELATED: Put cops back in school and shut down the street, Garfield High parents say after another shooting

An email to families from Garfield principal Tarance Hart on the night of the shooting carried a similar message.

“Each time I must report an incident of gun violence on or near our campus, it is tough, but this message is the hardest yet to send,” Hart said. “I am deeply saddened by the violence in our community and profoundly disturbed by the devastating impact it continues to have on our school. This senseless act has left us all shaken."

At the Friday morning gathering outside Garfield, former student Karima Souleyman, who now attends college in California, broke down as she told the crowd how she fears for her younger brother at Garfield now that she’s not here to help protect him.

“He was right there when he saw it, and that scares me,” Souleyman said, motioning toward the school steps. “The kids should be safe. They shouldn't have to worry about going to school and worrying about getting shot. My mom should not have to worry about, 'Is my child gonna be okay?'"

caption: Flowers and candles left on steps of Garfield High School in Seattle, following the fatal shooting of a student on campus June 6, 2024.
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Flowers and candles left on steps of Garfield High School in Seattle, following the fatal shooting of a student on campus June 6, 2024.
Liz Jones/KUOW

Souleyman also praised Garfield as a great school and community, and expressed frustration that the school gets unfairly labeled as problematic due to broader issues in the neighborhood.

“Just because the kids are majority Black does not mean that they're less. It could be any school. Garfield is a great place.”

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