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June 8, 2006

Reprinted from the Times Union, March 27, 2006

Local family mourns loss of a 'free spirit'

Jason Travers, 32, was one of six people killed by gunman on Saturday

By MARC PARRY, Hearst Times Union Staff writer
First published: Monday, March 27, 2006

ALBANY -- An Albany High School graduate is among six victims of a "zombie rave" after-party massacre that Seattle police are calling the city's deadliest mass shooting in more than 20 years.

Jason Travers, 32, was sitting in a chair and possibly asleep when the black-garbed shooter killed him and five others early Saturday, according to his father and the King County medical examiner's office. The gunman committed suicide as police confronted him.

Travers grew up in Albany. Relatives described him as a "free spirit" who spent a semester at Schenectady County Community College, helped start a comic book shop in Michigan and moved to Seattle several years ago.

Travers attended both a Friday night rave called "Better Off Undead" and the smaller after-party at a friend's two-story house, where the shooting took place, according to his father, James Travers. Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said some guests were "made up to look as if they were dead."

Just hours before the killing, Travers' older sister talked with him by phone. Cheryln Travers, a nurse who lives in Albany, said they discussed her family visiting Seattle in July. She has never been there.

"You just cannot comprehend such a senseless act of violence," said Travers, 36, who helped her single father raise Jason. "You watch these things about Columbine, and then when it hits home ... it's just truly a senseless act of violence that nobody will ever understand."

Investigators were still working on understanding the shooter's motive Sunday, said Seattle Police spokesman Sean Whitcomb. Authorities had not officially released the assailant's name by Sunday afternoon, but The Seattle Times newspaper Web site said police believe him to be 28-year-old Kyle Aaron Huff of North Seattle.

Police said the shootings are the city's worst mass killing since 1983's Wah Mee massacre, when 13 died in an attack at a gambling club.

"It's one of the largest crime scenes the city has ever had," Kerlikowske said.

The shooter was a guest at the party where about 20 people had gathered. He left around 7 a.m. Saturday, went to his black Dodge pickup truck and came back armed with a 12-gauge, pistol-grip shotgun, a handgun and bandoliers of shotgun shells, police said.

He forced his way back inside the house as he fired, police said. Authorities found one of his victims -- four men and two women -- on the porch steps. Three were found in the living room, and one other was at the front door.

After he couldn't get into the upstairs bathroom where a couple had taken refuge, he blasted the door.

The couple survived unharmed.

King County Medical Examiner's office used a photograph to tentatively identify one of the victims as Travers, investigator Nick Fletcher told the Times Union Sunday. Full confirmation requires a relative to identify the body, or a fingerprint match.

James Travers learned from an investigator in Fletcher's office that one of the victims had Jason Travers' wallet and driver's license in his pocket, he said.

Travers also recognized his son's hair in a media photo of authorities taking a gurney from the house, he said in an interview Sunday.

"It's a very small shot of his hair, but it's him," said Travers, 57, a retired ironworker who lives in Ravena. "It's really tough. He's my only son and I love him with all my heart."

He described Jason's circle of friends as "brilliant creative individuals" and artists.

Travers planned to leave for Seattle today. His thoughts and prayers were with the other victims' families, he said.

Prior to his death, Jason Travers had just returned to Seattle from Colorado, where he owns a home, his father said. He apparently was not presently employed. He worked previously as dairy department manager in a Seattle food cooperative.

He left the Capital Region years ago for Ann Arbor, Mich., where he helped start a comic book store not far from the University of Michigan campus.

Kind, gentle and generous, Travers was a vegan who "wouldn't eat anything that had legs and could run away from him," his father said.

As a child, however, he filled his mouth with dried cat food to gross out his sister, Cheryln Travers remembered with a chuckle. She said he enjoyed embarrassing her in front of friends.

"He was just a free spirit," she said when asked what led him to move out West. "He did what he wanted to."



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