Suspect Arrested For Threats and Slurs at Capitol Hill Store

Police tracked down and arrested a 52-year-man on Monday who threatened employees inside a Capitol Hill store and hurled epithets and slurs at staff and customers.

Witnesses told police said the intoxicated man hung out in the doorway of the store, located in 1500 block of 11th Avenue, shortly before noon and starting yelling homophobic slurs. Employees repeatedly asked him to leave, but the suspect remained and threatened to hurt the workers. He also made derogatory remarks to several Asian customers.

The suspect only left after a companion walked up and told him, “You don’t know what neighborhood you are in, but you don’t say those things here.”

Police interviewed store employees and then located a suspect nearby who fit the description. The man had changed clothes, but police found the clothing he’d worn at the store stuffed inside a cooler he’d been carrying. A manager at the store confirmed he was the right guy.

Officers booked the suspect into the King County Jail for investigation of malicious harassment.

Neighborhood Response Team Tackles Low-level Crime Downtown

A new seven-member police squad is patrolling the downtown core to tackle persistent, low-level crime that can make streets and parks feel unsafe.

The Neighborhood Response Team, created last month, is focusing on so-called “street disorder” crimes, such as shoplifting, public urination, defecation and drug use. Downtown businesses and community groups have increasingly raised concerns about the problem and pushed for the city to take action.

The officers are helping connect people to social services, as well as giving warnings and issuing citations to repeat offenders.

While the new emphasis should make a difference, it would be a mistake to think seven police officers can eliminate street disorder, West Precinct Capt. Chris Fowler said.

“This is a very complex problem throughout the city,” he said. “This squad is really charged to affect the most critical areas downtown. They aren’t going to solve it throughout the city. They aren’t going to solve it throughout the West precinct. But they might be able to help in some of the worst areas.”

The squad, comprised of six officers and a sergeant, began foot patrols the first week of December. It operates out of the West Precinct office, at 810 Virginia Street, and concentrates on persistent problem areas, including around Westlake and other downtown parks. The officers generally work from 6:30 in the morning, until 3:30 in the afternoon.

They have one job — reducing street disorder, Fowler said. “They will not be called away to routine 911 calls,” he said. “This is their assignment and unless there is a true emergency, they are not going to be pulled away from their core responsibilities.”

The officers will become experts on the complex web of rules and regulations covering street disorder.

The city, for example has an ordinance that says people can’t sit or lie on sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in an area that stretches from Denny Way to King Street and from Interstate 5 to the water.

However, it is legal for people to sit and lie in city parks and, in some cases along the waterfront, park boundaries include the sidewalks. So officers have to understand where they can and can’t enforce the ordinance.

Enforcing laws surrounding smoking marijuana, or drinking in public, also can differ depending on where the offense is taking place.

In the end, though, it’s not just about writing tickets.

Lisa Daugaard, policy director for the Public Defender Association, hopes the squad will spend much of its time connecting people with drug addiction and mental health issues to services that can help them, such as the Crisis Solution Center and the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, LEAD, program.

The LEAD program, for example, gives officers the ability to connect low-level non-violent drug dealers and users with treatment and services as an alternative to taking them to jail.

That’s a much better approach than just directing people to shelters, Daugaard said, noting “People know where the shelters are.”

SPD officials say the squad has a large toolbox to work with, including connecting people with programs like LEAD. Ultimately, the success or failure of the squad won’t be based on how many citations they write. “it’s going to be on how the behavior has changed,” Virginia Gleason, the police chief’s lead strategic advisor.

In many cases, just having officers patrolling problem areas can make a difference.

“One of the things we see at Occidental and Westlake parks is there are groups of people who specifically go there because they know those are places to buy and sell drugs,” Gleason said. “If a police officer is there, they are not going to engage in criminal behavior.”

Cab Ride Ends with Passenger Arrested, Driver in Hospital

The cab driver’s fare likely seemed promising — until the passenger climbed into the front seat.

The driver collected his 30-year-old ride in Mill Creek on Thursday night and drove him several places including the University of Washington area. But things became increasingly bizarre, and then turned dangerous after the passenger smoked an unknown substance at one of the stops.

The driver said the passenger acted “crazy” afterward. While driving to the 11300 block of Lake City Way Northeast, the man forced his way into the front seat and offered the cabbie $200 if he could drive the car. The cabbie refused and the passenger became enraged and began yelling, prompting the driver to stop the car.

The passenger then got out, went to the driver’s window and demanded his money back. When the driver replied he hadn’t been paid yet, the passenger punched him in the back of the neck and threatened to kill him. The driver used his cell phone to call 911 and the passenger fled.

After police arrived to interview the driver, the officer noticed a man approaching who matched the suspect’s description. The cab driver yelled, “That’s the guy, that’s the guy.”

The officer confronted the man and arrested him. He was booked into King County Jail on robbery and harassment charges and two misdemeanor warrants. The driver was taken to a hospital for evaluation.


Police Investigating Two Rolling Gunfights

Police are investigating two rolling gun battles that happened late Tuesday in the 23rd and Union, and Beacon Hill neighborhoods.

Witnesses told officers they saw a dark green Chevy Tahoe chasing a light colored SUV through the 23rd and Union neighborhood around 10:30 PM. Passengers in both vehicles were reportedly firing at each other, and officers collected numerous shell casings at the scene.

Roughly 20 minutes later, a North Beacon Hill home was sprayed by gunfire during another rolling gun battle.

Witnesses there reported hearing volleys of gunfire in the 1400 block of South Hill Street and then seeing two, large, four-door vehicles speed away.

A BMW was struck by a bullet, and a home was hit five times. Police collected 15 shell casings.

No one was injured in either shooting. Gang unit detectives are investigating.

Five Teens Arrested After Pistol-whipping, Robbing Man on First Hill

Police arrested several teenage muggers who pistol-whipped, punched and robbed a 25-year-old man in the North First Hill neighborhood Tuesday night.

The victim and two women were smoking cigarettes in the 1200 block of Boylston Avenue when a group of five to six boys and one girl approached about 10:20 PM. One of the suspects pulled out a handgun and pointed it at the victim. Then the entire group attacked him, took his cell phone and fled.

The victim suffered minor cuts and abrasions. He declined medical attention. The women with him were unharmed.

Officers spotted a suspicious group in the area and brought in witnesses who identified them as some of the robbers. Police arrested four boys and a girl, and recovered a realistic-looking BB gun.

Two teenage boys were booked into the Youth Services Center on robbery charges. The others were released to adult relatives.