A man and woman were discovered dead in what appears to be a murder-suicide in Cal Anderson Park on Wednesday evening.
Police were called to Cal Anderson Park around 8 PM on Wednesday while paramedics were attempting to revive a woman found unconscious. At the same time, police responded to reports on the other side of the park that a man had broken into a pump house.
The man has been identified by his mother and other sources as Travis Berge, a man well-known to Seattle media and police for his unapologetic methamphetamine use, charismatic personality, violent altercations with law enforcement, and his boast of beating the Seattle criminal justice system.
According to witnesses, the woman was Berge’s girlfriend, Lisa, and the two had been staying together in a makeshift shelter in Cal Anderson Park earlier in the evening.
Berge and Lisa had been fighting. “He kept yelling,” a witness by the name of Phillip Igaz told KOMO News. “He kept yelling threats, ‘Don’t make me do it!’ Then he started counting down…and just started throwing garbage at police and (then) tried to run away.”
Berge barricaded himself inside the building, refusing the pleas of negotiators and neighbors to exit. When the SWAT team entered the building at 12:30 AM, they found Berge dead inside a 10-foot tank filled with 50 gallons of a 12% bleach solution. HAZMAT crews were called in to retrieve the body.
The woman, Lisa, also died at the scene.
“The city failed Travis,” William Parkham told KOMO, identifying himself as a friend of Berge’s. “But they also failed a woman who is dead today because that person was allowed to be on the streets.”
Travis Berge arrived in Seattle from Reno, Nevada five years ago. In that time, he has been arrested 47 times with over 35 convictions and violations. He was placed on a list created by the Seattle Downtown Association, documenting 100 repeat offenders in the streets of Seattle. The Association used the report to blame a “catch and release” criminal justice system for the crime and homelessness problems that plague the city.
“I think this system has done what any viable, legitimate system would,” Berge told KOMO in 2019, “and they’ve really, like, exalted me, and like, shown deference and love towards me.”
Berge was featured in KOMO’s “Seattle is Dying” documentary, which was an in-depth look at Seattle crime and homelessness. He was very open with the news station about his methamphetamine use, his life in and out of jail, and his penchant for stealing in order to support his drug use. Body camera footage obtained for the documentary shows some of Berge’s violent behavior with city police: fending them off with a bicycle, hiding from them in a city trash can, striking and spitting at them.
Sade Smith, Berge’s attorney, told KOMO in 2019, “People are people and caging them, demonizing them, and advocating for imprisonment only works to bankrupt us morally and fiscally.”
Charges against Berge include assault, attempted rape, and trespassing.
Most recently, Berge was released in February after 240 days in the King County Jail for violating probation and not showing up for a court-ordered drug treatment. Since then, he was arrested in May for investigation of felony harassment, arrested again in June for investigation of obstruction during a protest, and again in July for investigation of failure to disperse. Each time, he was released quickly, and his cases were still pending at the time of his death.
Just last week, Berge showed KOMO a bag of meth he claimed was worth more than $100 and capsules he said were like “five days of speed in one pill.”
Former Seattle Municipal Court Judge Ed McKenna blamed the tragic story on the revolving-door criminal justice system and the “extreme social ideas” of many of Seattle’s politicians, executives, and judges.
“My heart goes out to the community because I really think this was a preventable situation,” McKenna said on the Dori Monson Show on Thursday, “that had our elected officials simply taken a harsher stance on someone who we know can’t be rehabilitated or is unlikely to be rehabilitated without significant effort, I think it was just inevitable what happened. And I simply have to place the blame where people had an opportunity to make some changes and they didn’t do it.”
The investigation is still on-going.