From left, Ashley Hay and Olivia Lippens with baby Monroe in protesting the bus intercept plan in front of the future Mercer Island light rail station. File photo

From left, Ashley Hay and Olivia Lippens with baby Monroe in protesting the bus intercept plan in front of the future Mercer Island light rail station. File photo

Mercer Island Reporter’s top 10 most-viewed web stories of 2019

  • Wednesday, January 1, 2020 6:30pm
  • News

1. One male, female dead after car shooting at Luther Burbank Park

At about 11:15 a.m. July 13, Mercer Island police were dispatched to the 2200 block of 84th Avenue Southeast after a weapons complaint was made. What officers found was a male and female in a car with gunshot wounds, located in the main parking area at Luther Burbank Park. They were transported to Harborview Medical Center for treatment and later died of their injuries. Officers have determined the shooting was a static incident, according to MIPD commander Jeff Magnan, meaning the incident is isolated to the male and female located in the car. The gun was recovered at the scene and officers were not looking for any suspects. During a day of high traffic at the park, Magnan said there was one witness who heard gunshots while others mistook the shots for fireworks.

2. Remembering a Mercer Island sports icon

State baseball Hall of Fame coach and longtime Mercer Island High School athletic director Gary Snyder died of cancer on Oct. 24 at the age of 80. Snyder grew up in the Magnolia area of Seattle, where he attended Queen Anne High School and played basketball and baseball. After graduation, he went to the University of Washington on a full baseball scholarship and made the UW Hall of Fame — along with the other members of the 1959 Husky team. Snyder played in the San Francisco Giants’ minor-league system before he returned to the Seattle area for years of coaching youth. He landed a job as a physical education teacher at Shorecrest High School in north Seattle in 1962, and by the time he reached his early 20s, he was head baseball coach. For 14 years he coached at the school, and led the team to a state championship in 1975. In 1979, Snyder was hired as associate principal for Mercer Island High School. Soon after, he was made athletic director and spent more than 15 years at the school where he developed a reputation for the way he managed the facilities. In 1988, Snyder became a charter inductee into the Washington State Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

3. Islander, Bothell firefighter remembered

“He was a walking angel.” That’s how Tinya Anderson, a Mercer Island resident, describes Kirk Robinson, a born-and-raised Islander and lieutenant for the Bothell Fire Department (BFD). Robinson died Oct. 4 at the age of 42. Robinson graduated from Mercer Island High School in 1995. Later, he studied kinesiology and sports medicine at Westmont College. In 1999, he joined Mercer Island’s auxiliary firefighting force; then, in April 2001, he was hired to work at BFD full time. Robinson was close to the community he was raised in until his death. In his youth, he served as a lifeguard at the Stroum Jewish Community Center. He was also a dedicated member of the Mercer Island Presbyterian Church. Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he volunteered to assist with ground zero cleanup. After Hurricane Katrina devastated Florida and Louisiana in 2005, Robinson and eight other firefighters hailing from Bothell and Redmond traveled to the East Coast to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency. On Feb. 23, 2017, Robinson was diagnosed with stage four metastatic melanoma. When he went public with his diagnosis on June 4, 2018, on social media, he received support in abundance. Shortly afterward, he was given a “Hometown Heroes” award at Mercer Island’s Summer Celebration parade.

4. Moms, business owners, residents oppose bus intercept

As news spreads of the proposed bus intercept plan that would transfer thousands of Eastside commuters from bus to light rail on Mercer Island, resistance has grown. Hundreds of residents have spoken out against the plan between the city of Mercer Island, Sound Transit (ST) and King County Metro. They cite concerns of crime, traffic congestion, infrastructure and public safety. They also are expressing frustrations with differences in the latest version of the plan to integrate bus with rail from what was previously agreed upon in a 2017 settlement agreement between the city and ST. That agreement specifically outlined that Metro buses would only drop off, pick up and layover on the south side of the street to avoid having passengers cross the street. It also included a 77th Avenue Southeast roundabout designated for bus turnaround. The plan will seriously impact adjacent private homes, including two properties to be acquired by ST on 78th Avenue Southeast and on North Mercer Way. The bus intercept plan is part of an ongoing bus-rail integration effort to eliminate redundant service across the I-90 bridge once the East Link Light Rail station on Mercer Island begins running in 2023.

5. Mercer Island PD hopes sonar will lead to missing boaters

The search for two missing boaters – James Le, a 30-year-old Seattle man, and his friend Vanna Nguyen, a 33-year-old woman from Burien – continued a week after Mercer Island Police found the empty boat floating near Mercer Island on Labor Day. There was little info on exactly where the pair was on the water before the boat drifted south of Mercer Island. The Coast Guard helped in the investigation and used a helicopter to search the lake and ground. The Seattle Police Harbor Patrol also aided in the search. Other marine units searched the water and shoreline and found a trailer and truck associated with the boat at Gene Coulon Park in Renton. Left behind on the undamaged boat were the pair’s cell phones. Police examined the two devices in an attempt to pin down a GPS location of where the phones were last used.

6. Amazon confirms move to Bellevue

Amazon confirmed rumors and numerous reports that the industry giant is planning a big move to Bellevue. GeekWire broke the news after Dave Clark, the senior vice president in charge of Amazon’s worldwide operations team, sent out an email on April 3 announcing the move. The Seattle-based team will relocate its thousands of employees to Bellevue by 2023. “We opened our first office building in Bellevue in 2017,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “It’s a city with great amenities, a high-quality of life for our employees, and fantastic talent – and it’s recognized for its business-friendly environment. We look forward to continue growing our presence in Bellevue and bringing more jobs to the city.”

7. Swastikas found on Mercer Island during Jewish holiday

A swastika that had been crudely painted on a concrete riser was discovered Sept. 29 at Mercerdale Park. Police have no idea how long the swastika had been there. There were no suspects. “We have not seen anything like this in quite some time,” said Commander Jeff Magnan of the Mercer Island Police Department. “Obviously we’ll follow up on any lead we can, but at this point we see this as a one off. Someone did something stupid, but we don’t necessarily see it as pervasive issue on the Island right now … Unfortunately not much we can do on this one.” There were more swastikas found the previous week, according to a post on Nextdoor — a neighborhood-specific social media website. A photo shows the side of a truck covered in multiple white symbols parked somewhere along Fleury Trail. The Anti-Defamation League confirmed that there was a truck covered in spray paintings with many large, clear swastikas discovered on Mercer Island. Investigators familiar with hate symbols, in their Center on Extremism, confirmed a number of the symbols were in fact swastikas.

8. Community supports local bakery on Mercer Island

Tucked away on an innocuous side street with no visible signage, one would have thought that location and lack of identification alone would put a small business like Shawn’s Bakery and Cafe at SE 24th St. on Mercer Island out of business, but it didn’t. In fact, owner Shawn Huffman argues his low profile actually strengthened the ideals he wanted to see in his community. His bakery and café is locally supported so his store doors are continually opened by familiar local faces. For the past 37 years Huffman has been refining his craft as a chef, dabbling in an assortment of cooking methods, after graduating from the California Culinary Academy, now the Cordon Bleu Culinary School in San Francisco. “I get a lot of people who are looking for anything that’s not a Starbucks,” Huffman said.

9. “Wizard of Oz” cast member dies at 98

A retirement community on Mercer Island is mourning the loss of a resident who connected the Island to one of the most beloved movies of all time, “The Wizard of Oz.” Meredythe Glass was one of the last surviving cast members of “The Wizard of Oz.” She died on Saturday, Aug. 31, at the age of 98. Glass was 18 when she landed her first acting job as an extra on “The Wizard of Oz” in 1939. She was one of about 100 “green ladies.” Glass got the part because her mother’s first cousin, Mervyn LeRoy, was the director-producer of the film. When she turned 18, LeRoy got her a Screen Actor’s Guild card. After “The Wizard of Oz,” Glass went on to work in Hollywood for a few more years, mostly as an extra or stand-in. She secured a small contract with Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) studio, appearing as an extra in several Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney films, including “Babes on Broadway,” “Strike up the Band,” and “Babes in Arms.” Glass also stood in for Vivian Leigh during the 1940s filming of “Waterloo Bridge,” Leigh’s first film after “Gone With the Wind.”

10. Mercer Island police, U.S. Coast Guard are searching for missing boaters

Mercer Island police partnered with Seattle Police Harbor Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard in their ongoing search for missing boaters James Le and Vanna Nguyen. Officers who responded in a Marine Patrol Boat found while the vessel was still playing loud music, there was no one aboard the red 20-foot “ski type boat.” And evidence — two open and partially consumed bottles of alcohol and two cell phones — pointed to there having been at least two onboard.

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