Tag: Magnolia

Morning Crank: “Why Is the Mayor Allowed To Dictate the Law?”

1. On Tuesday, May 15, the Consumer Protection Division of Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s found itself suddenly inundated with Consumer Protection Act complaints against the Seattle City Council, claiming that the council had violated citizens’ consumer rights by, among other things, allowing the city’s “public areas, streets, sidewalks, parks and cemeteries” to be “destroyed by unsanctioned homeless people and drug addicts.”  The written complaints—more than a dozen in one day—had a couple things in common. They all came from residents of Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood. And they all used strikingly similar language, replicated here from one of the complaints, which I obtained through a public records request:

Dear Attorney General: I am writing to you because our public areas, streets, sidewalks, parks and cemeteries and currently being destroyed by unsanctioned homeless people and drug addicts. You cannot drive anywhere in Seattle and surrounding neighborhoods without seeing a homeless tent, evidence of where a homeless tent once was, trash and drug needles, bottles of urine, human feces, etc. in any open space around the city. The homeless are destroying public property by cutting down trees and shrubs to make their encampments. They are littering, urinating and depositing used needles around their encampments. They are harassing pedestrians for money. Often these camps are elaborate, built of shipping pallets, plywood, and other building materials stolen from neighbors or construction sites. Some are built using Yellow Bikes with tarps draped over them. RV’s equipped with generators and BBQ grills are being setup alongside public roads as if it were a camp ground! On occasion, they have stolen power from neighboring houses or businesses. This has gotten way out of control. These camps are dangerous to both the homeless and residents using the public spaces, as they are often setup right next to a busy road with trash and debris spilling into the road and sidewalk areas. Needles can be picked up by children or accidently stepped on by children or pets. The trash attracts rodents. The urine and human feces is a health concern. We report these encampments when they spring up, but we are told by the police that there is nothing that they can do ??? that they have been instructed by the Chief of Police and Mayor to not do anything unless a felony crime has taken place. Currently there are laws against camping along side public roadways and on sidewalks. There are laws against littering. There are laws against camping out of your vehicle along a public road. There are laws against public urination. There are laws against illegal drug use. There are laws against loitering. There are laws against illegal parking. There are laws against vagrancy. Why are the laws not being enforced? Why is the Mayor allowed to dictate the law? I see this no differently than if the Mayor asked the Chief of Police not to arrest her brother for drunk driving and felony hit and run. She should not be able to dictate which laws are enforced and which laws are overlooked. As Attorney General, I would like to know what you can do to ensure that these laws are enforced? Laws were created for the protection and safety of everyone in the community. The homeless is not a protective class. They should not be exempt from following the laws that we all must follow simply because of their income status. Please advise as to what can to be done to enforce our laws! Thank you.
Curious how so many people in Magnolia came to file essentially the same complaint (sometimes shortened or dolled up with a few personal details) at the exact same time, I checked out what seemed to me the most likely suspect: The Magnolia NextDoor page. (NextDoor is a semi-private social network for people who live in the same area of the city.) Sure enough, a little over a week ago, there it was: A post from a Magnolia resident, titled “Homeless Encampments – Letter to the Attorney General,” that encouraged people concerned about the issue of “tents that are springing up all over the city” to “file a complaint with the Attorney General” using his letter as a template.
The complaints are all listed as “closed” in the state’s consumer complaint database, and the division referred all the complaints back to the Seattle City Council “to process in accordance with your agency’s procedures.” The consumer protection division deals only with complaints against businesses, not government agencies or officials, and according to its website, “is authorized to bring legal action only in the name of the State of Washington, and is prohibited from serving as an attorney for individual consumers.”  You can almost hear the deep, bureaucratic sigh as another pile of frivolous complaints land on the AG’s virtual desk.

2. Tonight at 6, the Seattle LGBTQ Commission will host a screening of “Pinkwashing Exposed: Seattle Fights Back!,” a film that argues Israel has enlisted unwitting LGBTQ people in service to so-called “Israeli apartheid” by “promoting [Israel] as ‘gay friendly’ to divert attention from terrible human rights violations.” The term “Israeli apartheid,” which likens Israel’s control of the West Bank and its policies toward Palestinians to the racist policies of the former South African government, is common in far-left circles but is considered anti-Semitic by many Jews. On Wednesday, the Jewish Federation Seattle created a petition to stop the event, which the group says “promotes lies about Israel, alienates and discriminates against the tens of thousands of Jews and Israelis living here, and is likely at the very least to stir up increased anti-Semitism.” In 2006, a gunman went on an anti-Israel tirade while he shot six people, killing one, at the Jewish Federation’s headquarters in downtown Seattle.

According to the event page for the screening, which is being co-hosted by the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities and socialist city council member Kshama Sawant the 10-member, city council-appointed commission is “standing in solidarity with Palestinians who face daily persecution from the occupying forces of the Israeli government. We are critiquing the Israeli governmental use of force, not individual Jewish people nor or we suggesting limiting human rights of Jewish people.”

But individual Jewish people in Seattle, and groups that work to combat anti-Semitism in the city, see the event differently. Maxima Patashnik, a spokeswoman for the Jewish Federation, says the documentary “presents a really one-sided view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and is really a detriment to the LGBTQ activists in Israel who have worked hard to gain equality and human rights and lumps them in with this Israeli propaganda campaign.” She says that while the film (like the event itself) does include the perspectives of a handful of Jewish people, “The events in the film as they are presented are extremely exclusionary, unwelcoming, and alienating to the vast majority Jews and Israelis here in Seattle.”

Patashnik also questions whether a city-funded commission whose mission does not include weighing in on international affairs should be sponsoring an event at City Hall that promotes the idea that (according to the website for the film) “Israel is the country most famous for” pretending to be LGBTQ-friendly to cover up human rights violations. “If this film was just being sponsored by Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, they would be well within their rights to do that. Where it crosses the line is that this is city-sponsored,” she says.

In a statement, the Seattle LGBTQ Commission said it was “hosting the film screening as an opportunity to encourage learning and civil discourse” and notes that the film was “made by a Jewish filmmaker and features Jewish and Palestinian activists working together.” The panel discussing the film will also include a Jewish member, the commission says. (LGBTQ Commission co-chair Julia Ricciardi did not respond to a followup question about whether any of the commission members who signed off on the event are themselves Jewish.)

“The Seattle LGBTQ Commission is committed to highlighting and centering experiences of individuals who are often marginalized, underrepresented or erased from public discourse,” the statement continues. “This film screening is an opportunity to invite all individuals from the Seattle community to engage in learning and discussion around information that may not be widely known, as well as provide valuable space for people to engage in dialogue about governmental practices, whether those practices be local, federal, or international.”

Patashnik says the Jewish Federation does not have any plans to formally protest the event.

 

3. Earlier this month, a woman was the victim of a brutal rape by a stranger in the restroom of a car dealership in Ballard. (Most rapes occur in people’s homes and are committed by men who are known to their victims.) Much of the media, and certainly many members of the public, have fixated on the fact that the man was homeless, suggesting that women are at particular risk of being raped by homeless strangers in Seattle due to policies the city council has adopted. And over the last few weeks, they have expressed their feelings
Many of the emails were directed at District 6 council member Mike O’Brien, whose district includes Ballard, where the rape occurred. Some, by the standards of anti-homeless social media screeds, are fairly mundane—a woman claims that she and her children are now “forced to stay in our homes and no longer feel safe to interact in the community we once loved”—but others are darker.
You probably know where this is going.

“Hey Mike,” one man writes. “Heard one of you Ballard BUMS raped someone today? Care to comment? The blame for this is COMPLETELY on your head due to your coddling of the BUM herds in Ballard.

“I sincerely, SINCERELY, hope that your wife is the next rape victim. Please do the world in general a favor and kill yourself.”

Another letter, from a woman, says that if council members like the “unsafe dump” Seattle has turned into, they should invite “these people” into their homes, where “They can rape your friends and do drugs in your backyard.”

A letter from a couple suggests that council members may “wake up” once  “your mother, wife, daughter, son [is] the next victim brutally raped by some mentally deranged homeless person from God knows where!!! … It takes city workers days to clean up after these PIGS!!,” the letter continues. “That’s appreciation isn’t it??  Wake up!!!  Who is in charge here??  Seems like the homeless are.  If they don’t want help, screw them, lock them up.”

A real estate broker, who helpfully includes the name of her employer, her personal website, and the signature line, “Realtor since 1990. Real Property. Real Expertise,” suggests that council members should “make every square foot of the floor space in Your yard, Your home Your children’s rooms available for the outlaws you seem to care for so much. Between Yourselves and all Your staffers You can get a true taste of what the policies you have wrought mean.

The vagrants have No rules

They could …Rape and assault, immolate, stab, kidnap you and your neighbors.

And don’t call the police they shouldn’t respond, you have instructed them not to.

You have already given the vagrants all the permission they need to do all of the above.”

Finally, to end on a (slightly) lighter note, there is this slightly deranged email, with the subject line “Rape of Seattle,” from a man who believes that city council members are accompanied at all times by security details and never “openly walk on the street.”

“If indeed you were running a safe city, then why do you require personal security?,” the writer asks. “Seattle’s political women like you Jenny, Sally, Kshama, Lisa, Debora, Lorena, Teresa, should be able to walk or bike the streets you are responsible for. At least bring your vehicle in for work without security.”

City council members do not have security details, and can regularly be seen on buses, walking on city sidewalks, riding their bikes along Fourth Avenue, and even at the downtown YMCA.

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Morning Crank: A Political Motivation

1. Well, god damn.

I’m reserving judgment on the sex abuse allegations against Mayor Ed Murray until all facts are out, because I don’t know a whole lot more than anybody else who’s reading the Times report and watching the statements that come out of the mayor’s office, but I will say this: the victim-blaming strategy Murray’s team has taken so far isn’t a good look. Moreover, it seems sure to backfire. A person’s criminal history (which was related to both addiction and homelessness) has no bearing on whether an accuser is telling the truth. Likewise, the amount of time that has elapsed between an alleged incident and when the alleged victim reports that incident to authorities has no bearing on its veracity, and suggesting a political motivation or saying “why did he wait so long to come forward?” is inexcusable (and, incidentally, also detracts from Murray’s defense). I would like to think that, in the post-Cosby era, we were beyond requiring accusers to be “perfect victims” and questioning their motives when they come forward, but if the statements made by Murray’s attorney Robert Sulkin in his defense yesterday are any indication, apparently we are not.

It’s unclear how Murray plans to proceed (so far, he has said through his attorney that he will vigorously defend himself against the charges) but if he continues to seek reelection, contributions are bound to dry up and candidates who had been holding back because of Murray’s apparent invincibility won’t hold back any more. If Murray resigns before the end of his term, the city charter mandates that the city council president take his place; currently, that’s Bruce Harrell, who ran for mayor (against Murray and incumbent Mike McGinn). If Harrell declined to serve as mayor, the council would elect a mayor to serve out Murray’s term from among its members.

2. James Toomey, a private security guard who worked for a company hired by Magnolia homeowners to protect their property last year, was already on probation when he pepper-sprayed Andrew Harris, a homeless man who had been sleeping in his car. Toomey was put on probation after being charged with assault for pepper-spraying two teenagers and slamming one of the teens’ head on the ground in Tacoma in 2014. In that case, as in the Harris case, Toomey justified his aggressive actions by saying the teens were “doing drugs.” In the Harris case, Toomey also claimed he was “in complete fear for my life” from the homeless Harris, who was attempting to record Toomey with his cell phone when the security guard hit him with pepper spray. “I was scared for my life. I have four kids and a wife,” Toomey said later by way of explanation.

Turns out that wasn’t the only time Toomey had claimed to be afraid for his life from an unarmed pepper-spraying victim. Earlier this month, Pierce County prosecuting attorney Pedro Chou unsuccessfully attempted to convince a judge to revoke Toomey’s parole in the 2014 head-slamming and pepper-spraying incident by introducing a security video from 2011, as a way of demonstrating a pattern of violent behavior by Toomey that would, along with the incident in which he pepper-sprayed Harris, justify revoking his parole and punishing him for the 2014 assaults. (Toomey has convictions on his record for felony forgery and violating a no-contact order in a case related to domestic violence charges by his ex-wife and required to take anger-management and domestic-violence classes.)

In the video, Toomey can be seen gesticulating and yelling at a woman who is trying to enter the Latitude 84 nightclub in Tacoma. The woman is turned away by Toomey (who later reports that she pulled out her ID “in a very threatening way”), and argues with him briefly before walking away and yelling at him from several yards away. A moment later, the woman begins walking toward Toomey again and is restrained by a bouncer, who pushes her woman against the wall and holds her arms; at that point, Toomey can be seen approaching and pepper spraying the restrained woman in the face several times.

toomey-video

In the police report and in his recorded testimony, Toomey struck a familiar refrain: He was afraid the woman planned to hurt or kill him. In the report, Toomey describes the woman, who is black and considerably smaller than Toomey, as almost superhumanly strong and powerful, claiming that she was trying to “smash through” the bouncer who stood between her and Toomey to get at him. In addition, “she kept on making verbal threats, saying stuff like, ‘I’m going to have my homies do this and do that,'” Toomey said. “You see how powerful she was.”

In his statement to police, Toomey writes, “Thank you so much for filling these charges against them, it is hard enough to run a security company as it is, and it makes are job a little less stressful knowing that these type of people are in jail and have to face charges for their criminal actions!” (The prosecuting attorney’s office never pursued charges against the woman, but they did consider charging Toomey, according to Harris’ attorney, Mike Maxwell).

Toomey remains on probation. (The judge in Pierce County was unconvinced that Toomey had demonstrated a pattern of unjustified attacks, and seemed very disturbed by Harris’ use of profanity during his statement.) Harris, meanwhile, continues to pursue his civil case against Toomey and Central Protection, the company that employed him. Harris, who is seeking about $300,000, remains homeless; he says he is working two jobs and hopes to have an apartment soon.

3. Two interesting items from Wednesday night’s meeting of the North Precinct Advisory Council, where the three North End city council members—Debora Juarez, Rob Johnson, and Mike O’Brien—spoke briefly and took questions, mostly about the delayed North Precinct police station replacement, from a roomful of North Seattle residents and business owners. (O’Brien walked in late after racing up to North Seattle College from the Ballard Library, where his monthly “office hours” with constituents were dominated by a group of Green Lake Community Center and Evans Pool users who wanted his assurance that he wouldn’t support “privatizing” the pool and community center.)

First, O’Brien said he expected that the city would begin taking concrete actions to bring the once-controversial, now-wildly-popular Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, a pre-arrest diversion program for low-level offenders that started in Belltown, citywide.

Second, council member Deborah Juarez announced that she would be introducing an amendment to police accountability legislation that would require that seven members of 15-member Community Police Commission be appointed by districts. At the council’s public safety committee meeting Thursday morning, Juarez announced rather abruptly that she had gotten pushback to her idea of district representation by CPC members, who suggested that district appointments “would limit the available pool of applicants to those living in the districts … when there might be an ideal candidate living elsewhere. The translation for me,” Juarez continued, “is that there is an assumption—an unfair assumption and a bias—that there will be no qualified applicants [in each district.] … That’s a false narrative.”

Enrique Gonzalez, a CPC member who was at the previous night’s meeting in North Seattle, countered that the current system doesn’t prohibit the CPC from having members from all across the city, but that there may be times when it makes sense for some communities with acute public safety and police accountability concerns (say, South Seattle) might need more representation on the police-oversight board than other areas with fewer concerns (say, North Seattle).

 

 

 

Magnolia Pepper-Spray Guard Pleads “Complete Fear for My Life” from Sleeping Victim

12212346_10206143963693412_1421393499_n.jpg
Pepper-spray victim Andrew Harris’ car, whose front window security guard James Toomey said was “so tinted that I couldn’t see inside” without stopping to approach the vehicle

A couple of updates about the Central Protection security guard, hired by the private Magnolia Patrol Association, who pepper-sprayed, handcuffed, and detained Andrew Harris, a neighborhood employee and resident who is currently living in his car. Magnolia homeowners pay the MPA to hire security to patrol the neighborhood, which some believe has become a hotbed of drug and property crime.

 

First, the following is a letter posted on NextDoor that is described as Toomey’s report to his supervisor at Central Protection. The letter differs in numerous key ways from both Harris’ description of events and what Toomey himself told police at the time.

Toomey, as I first reported, pled guilty to forgery (a felony) and violating a no-contact order (a gross misdemeanor) in a case related to domestic violence charges by his ex-wife in 2004. As part of his sentencing, he was required to complete treatment for domestic violence and anger management. As a felon, Toomey had his gun privileges revoked but managed to get a court to restore them in 2011. In 2014, KIRO 7 has since reported, Toomey was  arrested and charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault for pepper-spraying two teenagers and slamming one of the teens’ head on the ground in Tacoma. In that case, as with Harris’, Toomey claimed he thought his victims were “doing drugs,” according to KIRO. He was sent back to anger management classes and the charges were supposed to be dropped in 2017 as long as he didn’t break the law.

Here’s that account (sic throughout):

While beginning patrol through 27th street I was flagged down by two males in a car with reflective vests on (Assuming workers from one of the Companies back here off of 27th ) They pointed down and informed me of an Old Silver Toyota had been parked on the side by Commodore for several hours and a white male inside possibly smoking some sort of drugs out of a glass bubble pipe

I thanked them for the information and told them I would check it out. i immediately saw the vehicle when i turned on 27th side of the street “27th ” before hitting Commodore. I drove past it several times attempting to see who was inside and what they were doing.

The vehicle unfortunately had tinted windows – So tinted that I couldn’t see inside while driving past. So I ended up driving behind the vehicle and took pictures of the license plate and make of vehicle.

It was a Silver Toyota Celica License plate # …

After taking the pictures I got out to investigate who was inside the vehicle and what they were doing. I got out and walked up to the driver’s side window, I immediately saw a white male with blankets over him and what looked like some sort of glass pipe.

I knocked on the window and said, “Sir Hello, Sir are you okay? At first the male didn’t move at all, and I thought to myself hopefully he didn’t overdose or something. So I continued to knock and yell out, t’ Hello sir, are you okay, hello?”

I then got worried about the male because no matter how many times I knocked or called out to him he never even moved. So now I was worried if he was even alive. So I figured to try to see if his driver’s side door was unlocked and attempting to do a Health & Welfare check on the male but right as I grabbed the door handle he jumped up and came to and gave me the finger and told me to ” FUCK OFF and told me to leave him alone!” I then informed him that the people from the businesses had reported you and want you to leave because they stated that they saw you doing drugs and you’ve been here for several hours. That’s the only reason I am even checking on you, because the City of Magnolia has contracted security to patrol the entire City and to investigate any suspicious RV’s or vehicles. Plus I was very concerned about your welfare because you didn’t move at all.

He didn’t care nor listen to me he just continued to give me the “finger” while cussing me out. So I left and walked back to my patrol vehicle and called 911.

911 Operator asked if I would be waiting or in the area when Officers arrive. I said, Yes I’m patrolling but will still be in the area if needed.

I then left and drove up 27th a couple blocks and parked on the side while updating my report. I continued to watch the Silver Toyota from my Rear view mirror.

All of a sudden the male started pulling around and raced up directly behind me. I immediately got scared about what he was about to do. As he was walking up to my driver’s side door he was yelling and cursing saying, ” MOTHER FUCKERS IVE FUCKING HAD IT YOU MOTHER FUCKERS HARASSING ME!” As he was yelling this he grabbed my door and ripped it open and started to grab me pulling me out while cursing me I then knocked his hands away from me and pulled out my pepper spray and started to spray his face. I was in complete fear for my life at this moment. He then stumbled towards his vehicle and then turned towards me yelling and screaming again attempting to grab me. I pepper sprayed him again and turned him around to handcuff him.

I handcuffed him and called 911 again. This time to update them that now the suspicious male that I had just reported to police just several minutes ago drove up behind me and ripped open my door and attacked me. I informed them that I had pepper sprayed him and currently have him in handcuffs.

911 operator sent Fire Department to clean the pepper spray off the males face and sent Police officers. Fire Department arrived on scene and asked what had happened. They washed the males face off and then we all waited for police officers to arrive.

Police officers finally arrived after about a 35 min wait. They asked me as to what happened, after I explained they walked over and interviewed the male. The Police officers then explained to me that they have called their supervisor to come down, because it was my word against his word, and the male in question was3atinE completely different things. Officers said, “It was a He said/She said incident.
Officer Norton # 7436
Case # 16-74839

The Police Supervisor stated to the male and I that we were free to go and they are not arresting anyone and they were just going to tum this report into the King County prosecutor to see if anything would be filed. Before leaving scene I was informed that the male is homeless and lives in his vehicle and currently works at the Shell Gas Station in Magnolia directly across from the Starbucks off of McGraw.

I left scene and made contact with Executive Director of Magnolia Patrol Joe Villarino & Central Protection Security Manager Denis.

This account differs in a few key ways from Harris’ description of events. First, Harris says Toomey attempted to open his door, not the other way around. Second, Harris said he was sleeping in his car, not smoking unspecified drugs. No pipe was recovered from Harris’ car, and Toomey did not mention anything about drugs or a pipe in his official account to the Seattle Police Department. In that version of events, Toomey said he saw Harris sleeping, knocked on the door, got into a “verbal argument” with Harris, then “drove up the street.” Toomey told SPD Harris then pulled up behind him, walked to the door and tried to open it, then tried to “grab” Toomey but Toomey easily “‘slapped'” [Harris’] arms away. At this point, Toomey’s account to SPD says, Toomey followed Harris to his car and “the two continued verbally arguing,” Harris “again tried to grab” Toomey, and Toomey shoved him onto the hood of Harris’ car and cuffed him.

For the other discrepancies, both between Toomey’s account and Harris’ and between Toomey’s account in this memo attributed to him and the account he gave to police immediately after the incident, see my original post.

MPA board member Christian Binkley sent this letter out to Magnolia Patrol Association subscribers last week. MPA executive director Joe Villarino had no comment when I asked him about the incident, except that it was under investigation.

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I am writing this letter to you today to share our stance on the incident that occurred recently between one of our contracted neighborhood security staff and a member of the community. We at the association are fully aware of the incident and we remain sensitive to the concerns of the neighborhood we organized to protect, as well as that of the involved community member.

As you can expect, there are two wildly differing accounts of what happened and rest assured we are working closely with local law enforcement and Central Protection to establish the facts of the incident. We owe our supporters and the rest of the community full transparency of the situation once those facts are revealed. We ask that you remain neutral and free from preconceived judgment until that time, regardless of what you may see in the media.

We also owe our supporters continued patrols despite the ongoing investigation into the claims. Part of establishing a community service dedicated to providing the neighborhood with an extra set of eyes on the lookout for nefarious activity is anticipating that these kinds of allegations, whether proven to be true or fabricated, would most likely surface. Prior to the launch, we had evaluated these risks and took the necessary steps to safeguard the service we promised to our contributors and non-contributors within the neighborhood. It would be foolhardy of us to stall the service now leaving the area vulnerable to recidivism and undue criticism, especially since the service has received such widespread news coverage and support from other neighborhoods around the city who are eager to take a stand against criminal activity and victimization with their own patrol programs.

Again, we want to assure all of you that we take this incident very seriously and the neighborhood’s supportive trust is tremendously important to us. Newly released statistics have shown that you and your property are safer now than you have been in in recent years and it is my belief that it is due to the ongoing presence of this service. So many of your neighbors have shared their overwhelming appreciation for the consistent professionalism of our contracted security staff that I feel this association, partnered with that continued supportive trust that I mentioned, can grow into a model of communal solidarity and protection. The association makes you and your property’s safety our foremost priority and we will continue to offer everyone in the neighborhood the added security you asked us to provide.

Your Thankful Neighbor,

Christian Binkley
Board Member
Magnolia Patrol Association NPO

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.

Magnolia Resident Pepper-Sprayed by Private Security Guard

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Image via Central Security.

[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.]

Two days ago, on a quiet residential street in Magnolia, a private security guard employed by Central Protection, a company hired by Magnolia residents to combat what they view as an epidemic of crime in their neighborhood, pulled his blue-and-white Hummer over behind a parked car owned by Magnolia resident Andrew Harris. Within the next five minutes or so, the officer, James Toomey, had pepper-sprayed Harris in the face and, reportedly, knocked Harris’ Android phone out of his hand, sending the phone’s face, body, and battery scattering in different directions.

According to Harris’ account, he was sitting in the car before his shift at the local 76 station, where he’s a longtime employee. (He also works at the Spirit of Magnolia liquor store across the street). Here’s what Harris, whom I reached during his afternoon shift at the 76 station yesterday, says happened next: The security guard approached him and demanded to know what he was doing parked on the street. (Harris says he was parked in a legal, public parking spot with no time limitations). Harris rolled his window up and refused to respond. At that point, Harris says, the security guard opened his door and demanded that Harris get out of the car.

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Image via Central Protection Services’ “Training” page.

After initially refusing, Harris says, he got out, walked over to the guard’s Hummer, and asked if he could videotape the conversation. He says Toomey told him “Yes.” When he turned on his camera, though, Harris says the security guard slapped the phone out of his hands hard enough to send it under the Hummer, where he knelt to retrieve it. At that point, he says, the guard began pepper-spraying him in the face and chasing him to his car, where Harris says he pinned him up against the door. After Toomey sprayed him again–in Harris’ account, telling him, “You’re going to jail!” Harris continued to confront him, demanding that he call EMS to treat his injuries. Harris says the guard slapped police-style metal handcuffs on him before telling Harris he would “lie to the police and tell them I assaulted him.” When officers arrived, they took statements from both Harris and Toomey, and ultimately decided to let Toomey go.

Harris says he was unable to recover his phone, which he says disappeared from the place it had fallen next to the Hummer. “I think he took it” to make sure no videotaped evidence existed, Harris says.

“I consider myself an upstanding member of this community,” Harris told me yesterday. “I live here, I work here, and even though I may disagree with the use of private security patrols around here, this guy didn’t have any reason to assault me.” Harris says the sergeant who ultimately responded told him SPD would send the incident information to the King County prosecuting attorney’s office, which would decide whether to press charges against the security guard.

Harris admits that he got short with the officer–“I said, ‘what the fuck are you doing?'”–but insists that he did nothing to provoke the use of force, which he says continued as the officer chased him back to his car, “pepper-spraying me the whole way back. … It still hurts” physically, Harris said more than a day later.

Central Protection didn’t return calls for comment, which is why right now, I (and other media) only have Harris’ side of the story. The police report should shine some light on Toomey’s version of events.

According to the website for the Magnolia Patrol Association–the private group that pays for Central Protection to patrol the neighborhood with homeowner contributions–the group believes that private security are (unlike police) allowed to stop and interrogate anyone at any time for any reason if they view that person as suspicious.

“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,” the MPA website says. In contrast, “Private security can interact with anyone at any time. Because they do not represent the Government and [sic] the Constitution does not apply to private security.”

A police report shedding some light on Central Protection’s version of events should be available later today. I also have a call out to SPD, whose spokesman, Sean Whitcomb, told me yesterday that he is gathering information on the incident before commenting on what happened.

However, the Magnolia Patrol Association does not deny that one of their officer pepper-sprayed Harris. In an email, MPA president Joe Villarino told me, “We are sorry that the incident occurred to a long time employee of Magnolia 76 Gas Station. No other comments from MPA will be made until our full investigation are completed.” Villarino referred me to the neighborhood blog Magnolia Voice, which quotes Villarino as saying, “I did receive the [Central Protection] report and all I can tell you is it’s a different version of what happened. There’s no witnesses, so that’s why I think [SPD] decided to forward the report to the prosecutors about [Harris’s] version of being pepper sprayed and handcuffed. Our policy is ‘observe and report.’ Our understanding is that [Tonney] observed and reported and then called the police.”

On the neighborhood social media site NextDoor, where Harris initially reported the incident under the headline, “Thanks for the pepper-spray, Magnolia!,” most responses have been sympathetic. A few, however, have suggested that Harris’ account is suspect because he openly opposed the private police force and “has strong opinions on RVs” counter to the prevailing view in the neighborhood, which is that they are an eyesore at best, a menace at worst. Many on the site subsequently pointed to Harris’ “clear potential for bias” and what they felt were inconsistencies in his account.

I’ll update this post with more details from SPD when I get them.

Shouting Across the Empathy Gulf on Homelessness at City Hall

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 9.01.51 PMLast Friday, the council’s human services committee heard at length from a few groups that advocate for, and work to protect, Seattle residents who don’t have a permanent place to live.

These groups don’t have large, well-publicized meetings to air their grievances; they don’t have the ability to lure TV cameras with promises of rhetorical fireworks or a list of self-righteous grievances as long as your arm; and they don’t have the power and money and time to sit around on private social media sites fear-mongering, organizing petition campaigns, and riling up other wealthy, connected people to raise hell at City Hall.

But they did get a seat at the table Friday, and that made some homeowners angry.

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Those homeowners had their say; but first, they had to wait their turn. And when they spoke at the end of the three-hour meeting, it was jarring. When housed people show up at meetings about the immediate, intimate, life-or-death problems facing people without a permanent roof over their heads, to complain that their concerns about (their own) public health and safety aren’t being heard, and that the city only listens to homeless people and their advocates, the disconnect is hard to miss. One could argue (I would) that the whole of city zoning policy is based on the desire of a vocal, connected minority to preserve single-family areas as they were before Seattle was urbanized. It’s true that Seattle is no longer the undisputed realm of the property-owning class (occasionally, the city even makes it marginally less awful for the half of us who rent here), but in what version of reality have the concerns of single-family homeowners ever been ignored?

Typically, the concerns expressed by homeowner activists like Cindy Pierce and Gretchen Taylor, two Magnolia homeowners whose Neighborhood Safety Alliance “about” pages emphasize how “giving” they both are, get voiced in an echo chamber of affirming voices. In those settings, as I’ve documented here again and again, activists feel comfortable talking candidly about their desire to ban RVs from the city, or give homeless people one-way tickets to anywhere else, or force them, somehow, to “accept” human services. At city hall, however, surrounded by advocates for homeless people they spend their (apparently ample) free time deriding, their words rang a bit more hollow.Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 10.14.25 AM

“We’ve got a major health and safety problem in this city. Needles. Human waste. Urine. Tripping over everything. That is not how we in the city should live. We’re not going to get tourists in the city, our income isn’t going to go up,” Magnolia homeowner Pierce told the council. “If these illegal encampments do not get cleaned up, we are going to continue to see messes around the city and this city is going to look like Casablanca, and you don’t want to see what that city looks like.”

Taylor added that as “a native Seattleite,” she was speaking out of “concern for health and safety issues” in the city, and that all she wanted was for “the law [to] be the same for everyone. Equal rights for all.” What she meant was not that everyone has a human right to shelter, but that people who are homeless should be held to the same standard of conduct as people who are housed, and that laws against parking more than 72 hours in one place, public urination, drinking, and other nuisance violations committed primarily by the homeless should be strictly enforced.Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 11.07.43 PM

The homeless advocates at the table told a slightly different story. They described the many complicated reasons that people in encampments, for example, don’t always want to sleep in a shelter, ranging from disabilities to anxiety disorders to the fact that they have belongings, or a partner, or a pet. (Most shelters don’t take couples, forcing those with partners to separate in exchange for a dry place to sleep).

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“People make the choices that they make for reasons, and if you listen you can learn why, even if there were a significant amount of unused shelter capacity … we would still likely see people choosing to be outside,” the Defender Association’s Lisa Daugaard told council members. “They’re not choosing to be outside, necessarily, because they don’t know what the facts are, and they’re not necessarily choosing to be outside for bad reasons. Often, people are motivated by profoundly human reasons that resonate for all of us,” such as a desire for community, the human need for stability, or an aversion to living in crowded institutional settings, Daugaard said.

They talked about the fact that many people who end up in shelters for long periods don’t need services like drug treatment and help writing a resume so much as they need money to help them pay the rent.  They talked about the high cost of “permanent supportive housing” for high-needs people who will never be able to go out and rent on the open market, and how complicated those projects are to site, build, and operate. And they talked at great (perhaps excessive) length about so-called “tiny houses,” room-size structures that have electric light but no plumbing or outlets, and seem to be the temporary housing option of choice for some council members, like Sally Bagshaw, largely because they seem more “dignified” than tents. (One camp made up of these structures, which officials cited Friday, is called “Dignity Village.”)

They talked about racial inequities among the homeless population itself, about the need for health outreach to homeless people (rather than thinking of the homeless themselves as a health hazard to everyone else), about the people who are, as the Daugaard put it, “practically or actually unhousable” because they have criminal records or are active drug users.Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 11.08.15 PM

Breaking addiction isn’t a matter of willpower, the homeless advocates explained, and even people who continue to engage in unlawful behavior–the people who fall into the mental category of “bad” or “undeserving” or not “really” homeless, in the taxonomy of some neighborhood activists–have to sleep somewhere. “So if we don’t intentionally make housing and shelter and living accommodations for people who do engage in law violations, the default resolution of  that will be that those is that people will live in tents, in parks, on sidewalks on greenbelts, and in other unused public spaces,” Daugaard said. “And that is the worst possible policy solution, from everyone’s perspective.”

Tim Harris, head of Real Change, concluded by saying he was “more hopeful, actually, about how we’re dealing with homelessness than I’ve ever been,” because the city is finally connecting homelessness to issues like income inequality and the rising cost of housing for everyone, from people living in motels because they can’t pay for a full month’s rent to the “1,000 people walking around King County right now with [Section 8 housing] vouchers who can’t find anybody to rent to them,” to longtime homeowners who can no longer afford their tax bills.

I’m not as optimistic that everyone sees the connection, but it may be that, eventually, they’ll have to. As distinct as the issues facing longtime homeowners who worry about being priced out of their neighborhoods and those facing homeless individuals who worry that the city will confiscate their few remaining possessions during one of its infamous “cleanups” appear to be, they’re actually points on the same policy continuum, and the policies the city adopts that impact one flow downstream or upstream to impact every other point on that continuum. Your NextDoor complaint about needles outside an RV down the street impacts the homeless family in a tent under I-5, just as the mom in an overcrowded shelter who can’t get anyone to take her Section 8 voucher could the city to place services in your neighborhood even if you feel your part of town has already “accepted” too many desperate people.

However, it may take a while. As I wrote this late on Monday night, I noticed a new post on NextDoor Magnolia arguing that helping people who are homeless and addicted to drugs or alcohol merely coddles and enables them. “A drug addict or alcoholic, living in the street, is doing so as a consequence of their own actions,” the poster wrote. “Feeling the full brunt of their actions is well understood to be the only thing that leads to them recover.” A few minutes later, someone declaring herself a “full-blown NIMBY!” posted a lengthy screed against funding treatment beds “for those who will take the free ride for awhile with no real intention of staying clean.” Dozens more piled on. The distance between Daugaard’s world and the tidy fantasy of neighborhoods swept free of people with visible problems can seem vaster than ever.

At RV Meetings, Compassion for the Homeless Is Still in Short Supply

t10After sitting through what feel like countless meetings about density on the one hand (no renters in MY neighborhood!) and homelessness on the other (no tents/unsheltered homeless/RVs in MY neighborhood!), I’ve started to come to some conclusions about the “sides” in the debate between a small but vocal contingent of homeowners who want to return their neighborhoods to an imagined halycon past and everyone else. Here’s one.

t5For people who believe they should not have to look at homeless people with visible problems (addiction, inability to fix up their vehicles, lack of receptacles for their trash and human waste), no action by the city short of banning RVs and, ultimately, arresting everyone in them (because let’s be real: People with absolutely no money cannot pay the fines homeowning residents consider minor inconveniences, and jail is the ultimate punishment for that), will be satisfactory.t8

And, though they may yell (yes, yell) that they want the city to “fix” the problem of homelessness, any talk of new taxes to make inroads toward that solution is met with even louder yells and jeers. This is not my opinion; it’s my experience, based on what I’ve seen at meeting after meeting about “fixing” the RV “problem.” What is demanded t9of city officials, again and again, is that they (and we, as a city) behave with less compassion toward our homeless neighbors–that we act more like Shoreline, or Mercer Island (two areas held up as exemplary at recent meetings) in our attitude toward the homeless, with the aim of shoving them somewhere else where we don’t have to look at them.

Property crimes are a real problem. When I had a car, parked on the street on Capitol Hill, it got broken into all the time, and now that I have a scooter, my trunk and tank area get rifled through on a regular basis. Trash is a real issue: t4I see used condoms and needles and bottles on my street and in my neighborhood all the time, and I don’t want them there. Drug dealing is a huge issue in my neighborhood, so I sympathize with the concerns of Magnolia residents who are now starting to see it in the industrial areas near their neighborhood. Human waste is a real problem, although I would argue that the human waste produced by 300 people living in RVs in a city of 600,000 is hardly the imminent threat to salmon some concern trolls would have you believe.

t11But what gets lost in complaints about car break-ins and needles and trash on the street are the human beings that are the source of those issues, human beings whose humanity gets lost in discussions that often equate them to animals, or actual garbage. I’m starting to believe, unfortunately, that there are some people, mostly property owners, who will simply never acknowledge their common humanity with the people they would have arrested or sent out of town (big cheers for that notion last night, as well) simply because they suffer from visible addiction, or because they can’t keep their tabs up to date.t3

(One sign that the housed people who applaud and yell at these meetings acknowledge their homeless neighbors’ humanity would be understanding that homeless people, like housed people, have autonomy and desires, and those desires may not include being herded into camps and told to follow special rules, like curfews and bans on alcohol consumption, that housed pet2ople are welcome to ignore.)

I applaud the city for continuing to show up and serve as a firing squad for people who are only there to yell at them, but I encourage policymakers to consider the actual size of this uncompassionate contingent when making decisions that impact our homeless population. There were, on the outside, 300 people at last night’s meeting. According to the latest One Night Count, there are now nearly 5,000 people sleeping outside in King County in the winter. Which is the larger constituency?