Pepper-Spray Security Guard’s Stories Don’t Match Up

ah2Andrew Harris, the Magnolia employee who was pepper-sprayed and detained earlier this year by Central Protection security guard James Toomey after an altercation that started when Toomey saw Harris sleeping in his car, has posted dashcam video and the audio of two 911 calls from Toomey reporting Harris. (Magnolia homeowners pitched in to hire the firm to patrol their neighborhood last year.) Toomey’s account to the 911 dispatcher contradicts the story he told officers later, and calls into further question Toomey’s claims that he was “scared for [his] life” when he pepper-sprayed Harris. (As I first reported, Toomey has a criminal record that includes a felony forgery charge in a domestic violence case, two stints in mandatory anger-management classes, and–as KIRO 7 first reported–a separate, similar pepper-spraying incident in Tacoma.)

In the first call, Toomey says he approached Harris’ car after two local workers complained that a man was smoking drugs of some kind in the parked silver Toyota Celica, and that when he approached the car, “there is a white male inside, he’s got some blankets and stuff over him, and he is smoking some sort of—I don’t know if it’s meth or crack but he’s using drugs in the vehicle, and he’s just been camped out here for quite some time.” Toomey tells the dispatcher Harris yelled at him when he approached and told him to leave him alone and “call the police, so I said OK, so I walked back to my patrol vehicle here”—the Hummer Toomey used to patrol Magnolia—”and I’m calling you guys.” He also accuses Harris of “throwing out beer cans and different debris” around his car. “He’s been sitting here for hours doing some kind of drugs,” Toomey says. (Harris, who was living in his car and working two jobs in Magnolia Village at the time, said he was sleeping before a shift, not doing drugs as Toomey claimed).

In the second call, a few minutes later, you can hear Toomey yelling at Harris, “You attacked me!” before he tells the dispatcher that he was sitting in his Central Protection Hummer down the block from Harris when Harris drove up, “whipped open my door, yelling and cussing at me, saying that I had no right to watch him and bother him and call the police on him—and then he grabs his phone, grabs me out of the car and he tried to start a fight with me,” causing Toomey to pepper-spray and handcuff Harris and detain him until police arrived.

This account—Toomey approaches Harris, Harris is smoking crack or meth from some kind of pipe, Harris screams at Toomey and tells him to go away, Toomey calls the police only to be attacked again by Harris a few minutes later—contradicts what Toomey told the police when they arrived, as documented in the original police report and now on the dashcam video.  In that account, Toomey approached Harris and found him sleeping or passed out and unresponsive, and was “concerned” enough “for [Harris’] welfare” (according to the police report) to tap on his window to see if he was okay, causing Harris to fly into an rage and curse him out, then follow Toomey to his car and attack him.

toomey

“He was getting right up on me, so I grabbed him and we kind of wrestled right here,” Toomey tells the officers in the video, taken near the scene of the altercation. “And then I grabbed my pepper spray and I sprayed him and he was like, ‘Oh my god! I can’t believe you pepper-sprayed me!’ Blah, blah, blah. … And so I handcuffed him and then I called you guys.”

After hearing Toomey’s second version of events, the officers who arrived on the scene told Toomey that he had no legal authority to pepper-spray Harris, handcuff him, and detain him against his will. “If I’m being attacked? Citizen’s arrest!” Toomey responds.

Later, the video shows another officer telling Harris, “I don’t know why he handcuffed you. … We haven’t dealt with these people [Central Protection security guards]. They don’t have the authority to do anything.” After a few minutes of small talk, a supervisor arrives and tells Harris that based on what happened, he would probably be able to get a judge to grant a temporary restraining order against Toomey.

 

“I feel that what I was doing in the privacy of my own vehicle, so long as that wasn’t illegal, is my own business,” Harris said yesterday, in a post to Nextdoor that I’m quoting with his permission. “I wasn’t high, drunk, passed out, there was nothing illegal or unlawful about my vehicle or any of the contents of my vehicle.”

Since the pepper-spraying incident, Toomey has reportedly been reassigned to other duties, and Harris has retained an attorney for potential legal action against Toomey or Central Protection. While his original post on the incident had 157 comments–many of them questioning his character and motivation for confronting Toomey–his update on Nextdoor Magnolia yesterday has just 12 (largely supportive) replies and is now buried under a 29-comment thread about panhandlers, “social justice warriors,” and “poverty pimps.”

 

3 thoughts on “Pepper-Spray Security Guard’s Stories Don’t Match Up

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

  2. Toomey is still patrolling Magnolia, as recently as April 23. It’s infrequent – just about once a week for the last several weeks, but he’s still around.

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