Magnolia Guard Accused in Pepper-Spray Incident Pled Guilty to Felony; SPD Says He May Have Overstepped His Authority

Police spokesman: “It’s not cool to just pepper-spray someone and put them in cuffs.”

toomey

Screen shot via Q13 FOX.

[UPDATE: On Monday afternoon, I received a copy of the police report about the pepper-spray incident. According to Toomey’s account, he approached Harris’ car after two people approached him and “explained that there was a person [Harris] parked in a vehicle … and possibly doing narcotics.” At that point, Toomey told the officers, he approached Harris’ car and found him sleeping, knocked on his window, got in a verbal altercation with Harris, and left to call 911 “to report the suspicious incident.” (That incident being, so far, the presence of a man sitting in his car in a legal parking spot.)  then, Toomey told the police, Harris drove up behind him, got out of his car, and “attempted to grab” him twice before Toomey pepper-sprayed him, pushed him onto the hood of Harris’ car, and handcuffed him before calling 911 again.

Toomey’s account differs from Harris’ in a few respects. He claims Harris tried to “grab” him and does not mention knocking Harris’ phone, which SPD officers found shattered underneath Toomey’s Hummer, to the ground. He also doesn’t mention attempting to open Harris’ car door, which Harris claimed he did. Finally, he claims to have only pepper-sprayed Harris once, “striking him in the face,” whereas Harris says Toomey actually chased him back to his car while spraying him–an account that is consistent with Harris being shoved and cuffed on the hood of his own car, rather than the Hummer’s.]

A Seattle Police Department spokesman says a guard working for a private security force hired to police the Magnolia neighborhood stepped out of bounds when he pepper-sprayed and cuffed a longtime neighborhood resident and employee last week. “It’s not cool to just pepper-spray someone and put them in cuffs,” SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb says.

As I reported last week, Central Protection security guard James Toomey reportedly pepper-sprayed, handcuffed, and detained Magnolia resident and 76 gas station employee Andrew Harris after a confrontation that began when, Harris says, Toomey approached Harris’ car, which was parked on a street in Magnolia, and asked him what he was doing there.

Meanwhile, Pierce County Superior Court records reveal that Toomey pled guilty to one felony count of forgery and one gross misdemeanor count of violating a no-contact order in April 2004. According to court documents, Toomey was arraigned for domestic violence assault in 2003, and his ex-wife obtained a restraining order against him. Subsequently, according to court documents, Toomey forged a letter on the letterhead of a local attorney’s office, purportedly from a lawyer at that firm, in an attempt to get one-on-one visitation with their son, in violation of the no-contact order against him.Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 10.43.37 PM

Previously, also according to Pierce County Superior Court records, Toomey had been convicted of negligent driving and unlawful discharge of a firearm. As part of his sentencing for the forgery and protection order violation, Toomey was required to go through treatment for domestic violence and anger management issues, which he completed at a Social Treatment Opportunity Programs in Tacoma in 2005. 

In 2010, Toomey successfully went back to court to have his conviction vacated on the grounds that the felony conviction was affecting his opportunities for “employment, and licensing for employment.” One year after Pierce County Superior Court vacated the conviction, in August 2011, the court restored his right to own a gun. In December 2013, Toomey obtained a license from the state Department of Licensing to work as a security guard, and in 2014, he got a separate license as a private investigator—two services he offered out of his home office in Lakewood.

Repeated attempts to contact Toomey directly and through his employer by phone and social media were unsuccessful.

The Magnolia Patrol Association’s website says the reason private security guards are a good alternative to the police is because they don’t have to follow the constitution and can approach anyone at any time, anywhere, for any reason.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 10.02.00 AM

Image via Central Protection Services’ website.

“Private security firms have more authority on private property than police,” the MPA site says. “In addition, private security firms represent the property owners. The police, even off duty on special assignment, represent the City, County or State they work for. The police, even off duty, have to follow the guidelines set forth in the 4th and 14th Amendments of the US Constitution.

“The police cannot stop anyone to ask if they live on property, what they are doing, etc. This is a violation of a person’s Constitutional Rights which could open the police or property owner up for a civil suit. The police are not allowed to speak to anyone unless they have a reasonable suspicion that a crime may be afoot. Further, they must be able to articulate this suspicion in clear language. Private security can interact with anyone at any time [b]ecause they do not represent the Government and the Constitution does not apply to private security.”

Whitcomb calls that claim “amazing,” and says private security guards are subject to local, state, and federal laws, including the US Constitution. “You don’t get to deprive other people of their constitutional rights,” he says. “[Private security guards] don’t have police powers. They don’t have the same authority.”

Whitcomb adds the common notion of a “citizen’s arrest” is a lot more complicated than TV shows and movies make it out to be, and that if you see someone committing a crime, you’re better off calling the real police and letting them handle the situation. “Our company line is that the only folks who should be making arrests are those who are trained to do so, because it’s fairly complicated and there’s always the possibility that things can escalate” to the point where someone winds up injured or dead. “Just because someone broke into your car, or your house, that does not mean you get to hit them with a hammer.”

By handcuffing and detaining Harris, Whitcomb says, Toomey “deprived [Harris] of his liberty. To put handcuffs on someone, not by choice or consent, where he’s not free to go—this is why detectives need to look at what happened” in the incident. I have requested the police report to get Toomey’s version of events, but as of Friday, it was not available.

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Central Protection general manager Denis Kurdija did not respond to calls and messages for comment. His Facebook account is private and his Instagram account has been taken down. A commenter on Reddit took a screen shot before the latter account disappeared, however, showing Kurdija posing next to one of the white-and-blue Central Protection Hummers, with the caption, “I’m the general, just makin’ sure my soldiers straight #patrol #patrolcar #securitypatrol #mobilepatrol #privatepatrol #mob.”

Magnolia Patrol Association director Joe Villarino declined to comment on the incident or Toomey’s legal history, confirming only that Toomey lives in the Tacoma area.

12 thoughts on “Magnolia Guard Accused in Pepper-Spray Incident Pled Guilty to Felony; SPD Says He May Have Overstepped His Authority

  1. Pingback: Pepper-Spray Victim Sues Security Guard, Companies That Hired Him | The C Is for crank

  2. Pingback: Andrew Harris | The C Is for crank

  3. Pingback: Employees at Magnolia Private-Security Firm Have Extensive Criminal Histories | The C Is for crank

  4. Pingback: Magnolia Pepper-Spray Guard Pleads “Complete Fear for My Life” from Sleeping Victim | The C Is for crank

  5. I am acquainted with Andrew and trust his version of events. MPC appears to be an out of control organization who exemplify Trumpamania. The rent-a-cop should be prosecuted. I hope Andrew finds a tough plaintiff’s lawyer and sues the bejeezus out of MPA (and any of its individual members who can be sued), Central Patrol, the Magnolia City Council (if it in any way authorized or approved MPA or Central Patrol). and, of course, Rambo Toomey. GO ANDREW! This could have been any of us.

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  6. “The Magnolia Patrol Association’s website says the reason private security guards are a good alternative to the police is because they don’t have to follow the constitution and can approach anyone at any time, anywhere, for any reason.”
    about what I’d expect from this neighborhood

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  7. I don’t see this as kicking a rock at all David. I think as residents of Magnolia, we need to know exactly who is out there supposedly “protecting our interests”. I for one think that James Toomey is not the type of person that should be working in a pseudo law enforcement position. Also, to suggest that Central Protection is not bound by the constitution is ludicrous. They have absolutely no authority over the residents property owners in our community. James Toomey is lucky he didn’t spray someone like me with pepper spray, because I would have shot him in self defense without hesitation. I know Andrew Harris well enough to know that he did nothing to provoke or deserve this attack. I believe that the more exposure that this story gets, the better. Toomey should be fired and prosecuted for assault, and Andrew Harris should file suit against all parties responsible.

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  8. Thank you for reporting this preposterous situation. The bigger story may be that an angry brute can get his record vacated because it will limit his employability. In the field of brutality? WTF?

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  9. How many posts are you gonna milk this for, Erica? Everyone knows that pepper spraying people isn’t cool, but this was a private security guard who did it. If the victim wants to pursue it, let them sue the HOA or whatever.
    .
    If you think it represents some kind of a trend, then go ahead and make the case using different examples. Otherwise you’re just kicking a rock.

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    • It’s not “kicking a rock” when Magnolia residents are selling the virtues of these private “security” forces all over the city, and they justify hiring goons who violate people’s rights and assault them.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t think there’s anything stopping me quoting my own Nextdoor comment on this story, so here goes. This is in response to someone complaining about this post’s lack of objectivity and one-sidedness.

        ++++++

        Yes, ECB does have an agenda, but in this piece she quotes the police spokesman, the police report, and MPA’s website, and Toomey, Central Protection, and the MPA won’t comment.

        You are correct that it would be good to have more information. However:

        * Regardless of where the location is, if it’s on the public right-of-way the patrol has no business confronting people.

        * Regardless of any previous difficulties in that location, see above.

        * If someone called this in, they should have called the police, not MPA.

        * Even if this had been on private property, I thought we were told the MPA would only confront people on SUBSCRIBERS’ property.

        * Regardless of where it was and whose version we believe, it does appear that Andrew was handcuffed and detained. What on earth is the MPA doing with handcuffs? And by what right do they detain people?

        More information would be good but I don’t see how it would change any of those five points.

        Toomey himself “explained that there was a person [Harris] parked in a vehicle … and possibly doing narcotics.” According to ECB, “at that point, Toomey told the officers, he approached Harris’ car and found him sleeping, knocked on his window, got in a verbal altercation with Harris, and left to call 911 ‘to report the suspicious incident.'”

        If Andrew was sleeping, I have a hard time understanding how he could “possibly be doing narcotics.” And, again, if that was Toomey’s suspicion, he should have called it in to the police at that point.

        The more I think about this the more ridiculous it seems. This all could have been avoided if Toomey had stuck to what he was supposed to be doing. By his own admission he initiated contact.

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