Kristopher Kime never knew what hit him.
Jostling with close friends in the increasingly violent crowd at Mardi Gras in Pioneer Square on Tuesday night, he saw a young woman knocked to the pavement by a group of violent attackers. He bent over to help her to her feet, fearing she would be trampled.
That's when someone from behind smashed a bottle into the back of Kime's head. He crumpled to the pavement, unconscious. Several attackers set upon him wildly, kicking him in the head before moving on.
Kime's family and friends say he was murdered amid the mayhem of Fat Tuesday.
Detectives yesterday said they're getting closer to catching the attackers, who they said may turn out to be some of the same men responsible for dozens of assaults on partygoers at the Fat Tuesday celebration. But investigators said they need the public's help, and they still need to pore through piles of photographs and videotapes of the violence.
Kime's family has given detectives his distinctive blue Notre Dame hat - with a shamrock in the logo - in the hope they can pick him out in videos and possibly see who attacked him.
"It's going to be tough, but not impossible," police spokesman Clem Benton said. "We're going to need the public's help on this one. We have some really good video, but sometimes having video is not enough. We need to find out who the individuals in the video are."
A gentle, fun-loving athlete
Kime's family and friends yesterday pleaded for justice for the gentle, handsome, fun-loving athlete who dreamed of becoming a radio deejay.
"I just don't know why anyone would do that to him," Kime's father, Ken, of Kent, said yesterday. "He wasn't fighting. He was there to have a good time with the friends that he loved. These people are guilty of killing my son. ... they need to pay."
Kime's trip to Pioneer Square began as he met up with eight other friends, including his close pals Jodall Mattson and Oak Boulter-Maher.
"When you're in your early 20s and you know there's a fun place to be, that women are taking their tops off, and you have raging hormones, you have a draw to go down there," his father said. "I think young kids think about the risks, but I think they think they're invincible at that age."
Kime went to Evergreen High School in southwest Seattle, where he was a four-year letterman in soccer, a striker and a goalie, and the team captain his senior year.
He was so well-liked that school administrators asked him to help them pick the school's new soccer coach.
"What was so great about him was his attitude: He was a leader on and off the field," said Burt Pride, Evergreen's athletic director. "He was just the kind of kid you want a whole team of."
And Kime had a quick wit. He made friends in a flash and kept them.
"Kris was wonderful," Boulter-Maher said. "I've known him since eighth grade. He was always funny and being a clown."
After high school, Kime attended Highline Community College. He had worked at the Tukwila Eagle Hardware store for a long time and recently was working road-construction jobs.
He loved music, especially West Coast thrasher punk. He tattooed the logo of his favorite group, MXPX, on his shoulder. He moved in with buddies in a house in Auburn, and he went to Seattle to see all-ages concerts as often as he could.
Kime tried to help
But as familiar as they may have been with Pioneer Square, there was no comparison to Tuesday night. And it got ugly fast, his friends said.
"We were in our own little group, and fighting was breaking out everywhere," Mattson said. "I saw a girl being pulled around by her hair until she was knocked down, and somebody was kicking her. It was disgusting, a whole group of people beating up one person."
Kime tried to help. Mattson and Boulter-Maher tried to help someone else. Suddenly the women heard hysterical screams. Mattson pushed through the crowd and looked down.
At first she didn't recognize the unconscious man lying in the street. Then someone turned him over and propped up his head. It was Kime.
"I tried to stay calm," Mattson said, her voice cracking. "I thought he would be all right."
Hard to get help
But the melee made it impossible for an aid crew to get to the scene. It was 1 a.m. at First and Yesler, the height of the Mardi Gras frenzy. Police later said they were being assaulted by the crowd, which was catapulting bottles and other debris at them. The fire department said it couldn't respond directly to rescue Kime because the scene couldn't be secured by police.
"We decided to pick him up and move him," Mattson said. At Second and Yesler, "All these cops on bikes came and made us all stand back," she said. It was 1:15 a.m.
A few off-duty firefighters arrived and helped carry Kime to a nearby police car.
A police sergeant drove Kime to the Seattle Fire Department headquarters at Second and Main. Then an ambulance took him to Harborview Medical Center.
It was 1:44 a.m., according to police reports.
By the time Kime's father got to the hospital an hour later, his first-born son was all but brain dead. The doctors told him that there was little chance his boy would ever regain consciousness.
But by dawn, medicine had relieved the swelling in Kris Kime's brain. His eyes moved reflexively. He seemed to be fighting with the ventilator.
"But the doctor gave me no hope," Ken Kime said. "He said, `It's not good.' They pronounced him dead at 7:21 p.m. on Wednesday."
Ken Kime now wonders who killed his son, and why.
Witnesses said the man who hit Kime from behind was black, that he may have been part of a roving group of young black men and women who police say attacked many white partygoers in the crowd. But police spokesman Benton yesterday cautioned against concluding that the attackers were motivated by race.
"It would be pure speculation," Benton said. "Right now we're simply investigating this as criminal activity. If we can apprehend suspects and interview witnesses, and if something emerges, we'll look at it."
Ken Kime said he doesn't even want to discuss the race of his son's killer until he knows who killed him and why.
"Whoever it was might have been someone who was just mad at the world and was venting his anger," he said.
Kime also wonders if his son's death could have been prevented.
"I have mixed emotions because I know the crowd was out of control," he said. "But it was a city-sanctioned function, and ... they should have protected the people in the crowd. But I try not to blame them. It certainly wasn't the police who wielded the bottle."
Kris Kime's organs have been harvested for transplant.
"It's comforting that a totally senseless life-taking will save lives and extend lives," said his stepmother, Kimberlee Kime.
And his father said he hopes that Seattle might learn from his son's slaying.
"If it could somehow get across to young people who are rioting that it's absolutely senseless, that's what I want it to do," he said. "It's a black eye for Seattle. And I don't see the point. I don't understand the point."
Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur contributed to this report.