Bouquets and potted flowers crowded the front entrance to The Postman, a mailing and shipping business in Seattle’s Central District where friends and customers came Thursday to mourn owner D’Vonne Pickett Jr., who was fatally shot as he and his wife were closing up shop the night before.
A father of three young children, Pickett and his wife KeAnna named the business for his great-grandfather, Jacques Chappell, a mail carrier in the neighborhood for 37 years, said Y Mitchell, a friend who paid her respects outside the business Thursday.
“We grew up together — I was at 21st and Union and his family was at 35th and Olive,” she said. “Everybody from the CD knows D’Vonne and his family. He’d personally bring my grandma her mail.”
Dozens of tributes are posted to Pickett’s Facebook page, echoing the shock and sadness of the hundreds who spilled into the street in front of The Postman for a candlelight vigil Thursday evening to remember the beloved 32-year-old entrepreneur and youth football coach who was considered a pillar of the Central District.
A Black-owned shop situated on the west side of Martin Luther King Jr. Way, just south of Union Street, The Postman was the first business to occupy the building across from Grocery Outlet that now has storefronts belonging to a dental office, hair salon, gym and boxing gym. “Keeping Community Connected” is written in white letters under the business’ logo, and new signs posted in the window advise customers that The Postman will be closed until further notice.
Seattle Police Department and King County Sheriff’s SWAT teams Thursday afternoon arrested a 31-year-old man suspected of killing Pickett, said Det. Patrick Michaud, a Seattle police spokesperson.
The man, arrested at his South Seattle apartment, is also suspected of committing another recent homicide and other shootings, but Michaud declined to provide details because the man was still being interviewed by detectives and had not been booked into jail.
Scott Kirby, who owns Zeal Fitness next door to The Postman, said he had just finished training a client when he heard at least seven or eight gunshots outside his front door Wednesday. He ran to the back to grab his phone and called 911 at 6:29 p.m. Police arrived two minutes later, and Seattle Fire Department medics were seconds behind officers, he said.
When Kirby got outside, Pickett had collapsed with several gunshot wounds to his abdomen. Pickett’s wife, who had been inside the couple’s store when the shots rang out, tried to apply pressure to his wounds and keep him calm before medics took over, Kirby said. Medics got a pulse, but Pickett later died at Harborview Medical Center.
“It was horrible. He was in so much pain. To watch him die,” Kirby said, his voice trailing. “It’s so unfair. It makes no sense whatsoever.”
Kirby saw 11 evidence markers placed by shell casings clustered near a bus stop just north of The Postman. He suspects the shooter had been waiting to ambush and rob Pickett, who dropped cash and his keys outside his business as he tried to run south, away from the shooter, who fled the scene before police arrived.
Angus Norton, a Central District resident for 20 years, learned of Pickett’s killing when he arrived at The Postman to mail packages Thursday.
“They’re such a hard-working family, and they have such a great story,” Norton said, referring to Pickett’s great-grandfather, whose U.S. Postal Service jacket hangs on a wall inside the business. “I can’t believe it. I’m in shock. I’m so sorry. This is a quintessential small business. They’re such nice people.”
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, who also grew up in the Central District, expressed his own sadness over Pickett’s killing and decried the ongoing gun violence that disproportionately affects communities of color, particularly young Black men.
“D’Vonne was known for his kindness, determination, and passion for uplifting the Seattle community and making a positive impact in the Central District with his business, The Postman,” Harrell said in a statement. “Along with his family-run business, he was also a youth sports coach, giving his time and talent to mentoring our young people and shaping the next generation of leaders in this city.
“We cannot allow a senseless tragedy like this to be the norm in our city,” Harrell continued. “I will continue to take meaningful, urgent action to comprehensively address public safety in Seattle, tackle gun violence like the public health crisis we know it is, and build a safe city for all.”
Mike Bethea, a legendary Rainier Beach High School boys’ basketball coach, said Pickett was tough and fearless on the court.
During his junior year at Rainier Beach, Pickett helped the powerhouse Vikings basketball team to a 29-1 record and a 3A state championship during the 2007-2008 season. After suffering a knee injury, Pickett went on to play basketball at a junior college in Arizona for two years before earning a scholarship to Seattle University, where he played for the Redhawks from 2012 to 2014, Bethea said.
“I can’t say it enough, just a great kid,” said Bethea, who spoke frequently with Pickett. “He was a kid that early on was in the streets. We used to talk about it all the time. He saw the big picture. He got to college. Got a full ride to Seattle U. Graduated from Seattle U. Became a young entrepreneur and started a business in our community and was raising a family.”
Bethea recalled that when he and Pickett last talked a month ago, Pickett said he and his wife were getting ready to buy a house.
“He was such a joy to be around,” Bethea said. “The whole city is taking this so hard.”
Bethea spent most of Thursday consoling members of the Seattle area’s tight-knit basketball community.
“It’s like a piece of you has been snatched away … Everybody is in tears,” said Bethea. “This one hurts, man. You won’t find anybody who has a negative thing to say about him. This pain stretches from the Rainier Beach community all the way over to Seattle U and the Central Area. He had that big of an impact on everybody.”
Seattle Times sports reporter Percy Allen and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story.