Teens went ghost hunting in ‘haunted’ park. One didn’t make it out alive, police say


Ryan Dela Cruz and four of his friends went into a darkened south Seattle park early Saturday morning because they had heard it was haunted. What happened there is now haunting Dela Cruz’s family.

Another group of people that drove into the park opened fire into the woods, reported KIRO TV in Seattle and other local media.

Three bullets hit Dela Cruz, a high school senior two weeks away from graduation who wanted to be a Marine. He later died at Harborview Medical Center, according to Seattle police.

On Monday, local media reported that Seattle City Council president Bruce Harrell began the meeting by expressing sorrow for Dela Cruz, an apparent victim of random violence.

“I tell God, you are unfair, but it’s your will be done,” the teen’s tearful father, Henry Tacazon, told KING-TV in Seattle as he left a memorial for his son at the park Saturday evening.

Seattle police say witnesses called 911 about 1:18 a.m. Saturday morning and reported someone had been shot. Officers arrived three minutes later and found Dela Cruz with multiple gunshot wounds, Marc Garth Green, assistant chief of the Seattle Police Department’s Investigations Bureau, said at a press conference on Saturday.

“Anytime there’s a loss of life it’s a tragic event,” he said. “Unfortunately it’s more pronounced when that victim is a young man or young woman with a full life ahead of them.”

He said police do not believe Dela Cruz “was targeted in any way.” He described the shooting as an “isolated incident” – the two groups ran into each other in the park when “some incident transpired there.”

He said police believe Dela Cruz and his friends were there to “just kind of walk through the park at later hours and maybe scare each other.”

The park has a scary history. According to The Seattle Times, it’s a small, secluded park, barely a mile from where Dela Cruz lived, though his parents had never heard of it.

One story on the City Living Seattle website says the park, alongside Lake Washington, was originally the site of a boarding school for delinquent girls known as The Martha Washington School for Insane Girls.

Stories of violence committed by students and staff – including suicides and murders – have clung to the site over the years. The city demolished the school’s abandoned buildings after they were taken over by a satanic group, the website says.

People still report paranormal activity there, especially around the groves of old trees in the park.

“We do not believe it to be a gang-related shooting at all,” Green said. “In fact, what this is is a group of young people that were taking part in a park because they heard there were ghost stories and it was haunted. So they were down there in the woods in the hours of darkness to kind of have a fun adventure.

“Unfortunately a tragic event happened there.”

Dela Cruz’s father told the Times that he woke up about 2 a.m. Saturday and tried to call his son’s cell phone, but it went straight to voice mail.

Two hours later he heard banging on the front door. His wife told him to open it, thinking it was their son.

But there were Seattle police officers on his doorstep telling Tacazon the youngest of his four children was in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center, the Times reported.

Tacazon moved to the United States from his native Philippines because he thought his family would be safer here, he told KIRO 7.

“Yeah, this is America,” he told KIRO. “Yeah, good opportunities here. But, I don’t know what’s happening in here.”

He and his wife told the Times “it was unusual for their son to go out at night … but on Friday Dela Cruz said it was for a ‘Marine celebration’ ” with other friends planning to join the corps.

According to the Times, Tacazon asked his son where they were all going.

“I don’t know,” he said.

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