Witness to deadly SODO crash says it sheds light on bigger issue of city's homelessness crisis

A business owner who witnessed a deadly crash involving a pedestrian in Seattle's SODO neighborhood said the incident goes beyond the tragedy of loss of life and sheds light on the city's growing homelessness crisis.  

The Seattle Police Department said the man hit and killed on Wednesday was in his 40s. He has not been publicly identified. 

Ryan Lengle, the owner of Slice Box Pizza on 1st Ave. S in SODO, remembers Wednesday being a normal afternoon serving food. Lengle recalled a man he believed to be homeless walking into his shop asking for money and then leaving. 

Within seconds, right outside his door, Lengle said he and a UPS driver saw the man stealing a box from the UPS truck.

"Trying to stop him, the driver and myself, going ‘what’s up?’ He just basically took the box and turned and ran with it, but unfortunately, he ran into oncoming traffic," said Lengle.

Police said a Ford truck hit the man and he died at the scene. Detectives with the Traffic Collision Investigation Squad are reviewing the case.

Instead of focusing on the man’s final moments, Lengle said he thinks about the turning point that led to him being unhoused.

"I feel for that man because he has a family, he has others that know him. And we all as a public, we don’t get to know these people. We just see them and their behavior and that’s how we judge or create our identity for them," said Lengle.

Lengle said he believes there’s a lack of accountability for predators who prey on those in need.

"Do we just stand back and just let stuff happen? Do we get involved? And if we get involved, does that mean other things might happen that we don’t intend? So, it’s just really unfortunate and it’s happening all over," said Lengle.

A day before the deadly crash, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the 2023-2024 budget proposal, which would allot $88 million to the King County Regional Homeless Authority. The money would fund new homeless shelters, outreach programs and resources.

The proposal may be a hopeful solution to help prevent a similar fate of what happened in SODO.

"In times like this, maybe you think a little more of like ‘what could we have done for this person?’ So, there’s a lot for all of us to think about and to do better should be like our new motto," said Lengle. "If we all look the other way, we wouldn’t see what’s going on around us. So, we have to bear witness to this society that’s happening."