A Renton man who was hit over the head with a skateboard during an argument in the University District died yesterday.
Demetri Andrews died at 5:50 p.m., according to Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Gregg-Hanson. He would have turned 34 today.
Andrews was driving on University Way Northeast near Northeast 45th Street about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday when he slammed on his brakes to avoid hitting three skateboarders who rode into the street, according to police.
Andrews honked and was agitated when he got out of his car and starting arguing with one of the skateboarders. Then, another skateboarder hit him over the head from behind with his board. As Andrews fell to the ground, the skateboarders ran off.
Police were called, and paramedics took Andrews to the hospital.
The skateboarders were described as white men in their early 20s. The man who hit Andrews was described as 5 feet 6 inches tall with brown hair, and he was wearing a wool hat. Another was identified as 5 feet 9 with a shaved head, baggy jeans and a black shirt. Little information on the third man was available.
"I think the probability of finding them is pretty good, especially if they're regulars on 'The Ave,' " said Seattle police spokesman Scott Moss. "The officers on the beat know their beat pretty well, so the chances of them knowing them are pretty good."
At the same time, Moss said, drivers should learn from the confrontation and not get out of their cars in cases where the situation can escalate.
Although he bled heavily after the attack, Andrews was conscious and alert. A police officer at the scene noted that Andrews "sustained a cut to his head and possible concussion." But bleeding in his brain caused him to slip into a coma about 7 a.m. Wednesday.
The father of a 6-year-old boy, Andrews was described as everybody's friend.
"He would do anything for everybody," said friend Laurie Kelly, 34, of Seattle. "He was going through a divorce, but he would call me and ask me if I needed anything and ask how I was doing."
Raised on Mercer Island, Andrews graduated from Mercer Island High School in 1986. Since then, he had remained friends with 20 to 30 of his classmates, meeting for pizza and salad every couple of months at a Mercer Island pizza parlor.
He attended Bellevue Community College and worked as a real-estate agent and construction worker and helped out at the family's restaurant, Niko's Place, across from the KeyArena. He was also active in the local Greek community, belonging to several clubs and a church.
While a high-school senior, Andrews singled out freshmen and told them to let him know if anyone was bullying them.
"When I got (to high school), those freshmen remembered how good my brother was to them and they looked out for me," recalled his brother, Vasili, now 28.
But that willingness to help others may have been what got him into the fight Tuesday, friends said earlier yesterday.
"He's not overly aggressive, but he's a proud person," said friend Tom Acker, 34, of Seattle. "If he feels that there's an injustice done to him or to someone on the street, he'll say something."
Andrews' family is hoping the skateboarders will come forward and that the dozen witnesses to the attack will help police in their investigation.
"The ethical thing for them to do, the correct thing for them to do, is come forward," said Vasili Andrews.
The attack is one of several along University Way Northeast — known as The Ave — in recent months.
In February, a panhandler with a knife slashed a 20-year-old pregnant woman after she declined to hand over spare change.
On Jan. 6, a police officer fatally shot 36-year-old Adam Alexander after he took a hostage while holding a pellet gun that appeared to be a real firearm.
Seattle police have increased their presence, putting officers on foot or bike on The Ave around the clock, but they acknowledge that it's still a hub for crime and drug sales — especially methamphetamine lately.
Still, longtime merchants say that Tuesday's attack could have happened in any neighborhood, and they stress that the U District is not overrun with violent skateboarders and remains safe.
Tuesday's attack "seems to me like a road-rage situation," said Charles Grimes, who has owned the M.J. Feet shoe store on The Ave since 1976. "I think it's more of a comment on that issue more than it is about the U District."
And skateboarders in the area say the attack isn't a reflection on them as a group.
"Me and my friends are really respectful of drivers and pedestrians. It's just another mode of transportation," said Justin Pendergrass, 22, a senior at the University of Washington.
"If you look at anybody who gets in a fight, it's just not skateboarders," said Josh Parce, 20, who works at a U District pizza parlor. "There's always a few bad apples that ruin it for everyone."
Grimes said people have always been nostalgic about what they remember as better days on The Ave. But the nostalgia means the neighborhood seems to get a lot of scrutiny other areas don't, a point that often has frustrated business owners.
"There really are some serious crimes going on in lots of different places," Grimes said. "But what the U District has is a problem of perception. I think people have an emotional attachment to the U District, and everyone wants the U District to be a great place. So every time something happens, the city says, 'What's happening to the U District?' "