Tunnel beating victim says pleas were ignored; police plan internal review
Aiesha Steward-Baker, the girl whose brutal beating in Seattle's transit tunnel has sparked a re-examination of Metro Transit security, said police and security guards could have prevent the attack.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Aiesha Steward-Baker, the girl whose brutal beating in Seattle's transit tunnel sparked a re-examination of Metro Transit security and prompted the sheriff's office to post armed deputies at the stations, said police and security guards could have prevented the attack.
Speaking during a news conference Friday afternoon, Baker, 15, recounted what happened before she was she was punched, stomped and kicked by another 15-year-old girl in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel on Jan. 28.
She said she asked Seattle police for help several times in the hour before the attack while she was in Westlake Center and Macy's.
While she was in the department store, she said, one of the boys in the other group moved in close to her with his fist balled, she said.
Police witnessed that, she said, and told the other group to leave the store. She said police ignored her when she tried to explain that the group would be waiting outside another exit for her.
"I was trying to explain that the kids were following and threatening me, which both officers witnessed, but the police officer just wasn't listening," said Steward-Baker.
Seattle police have said they did everything they could to separate the girl from a group of antagonists, but the officers did not witness unlawful behavior before the attack. Police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb on Thursday characterized the situation between the girl and the other group of young people as "a roving, verbal dispute."
"If there were any threats, we were not told of them," he said.
Once she was in the tunnel at Westlake Station, Steward-Baker said she approached unarmed security guards and asked for help, but was ignored. She said she told police that members of the group had threatened her, but the officers failed to act on her pleas for help.
On Friday afternoon, the Seattle Police Department announced it was conducting an internal review of the officers' actions that evening to determine whether they properly handled the situation.
According to a news release, interim Police Chief John Diaz has initiated the review that will also address the "larger issue of how the King County Sheriff's Office and the Seattle Police Department can jointly address public safety priorities for citizens who use public transportation within the City of Seattle."
Friday's news conference at Seattle's First AME Church was the first time the Ingraham High School student has spoken publicly since the release of a surveillance video showing her being attacked and beaten by another teenage girl while the security guards watch.
The video, which was released earlier this week, shows Baker in the tunnel, where she approaches the guards, and even tries to duck behind them before she is attacked by the other girl.
In response to the attack, the King County Sheriff's Office has begun posting armed deputies at all the five tunnel transit stations, and King County Metro said it will reexamine its policy forbidding unarmed guards from physically intervening in criminal and suspicious behavior.
Four people were arrested in connection with the attack:
The 15-year-old alleged assailant (who is not being named because she has been charged in juvenile court); Latroy Hayman, 20; Tyrone Watson, 18; and Dominique Whitaker, 18.
All four have been charged with first-degree robbery, a charge that could bring sentences of between two to four years, prosecutors said.
Friends and relatives of the four suspects have said that the whole situation has been blown out of proportion. They said the two girls have fought each other often over the past two years, and that Baker has usually won.
"The only reason this is different is because it was caught on video," said Whitaker's sister, 16-year-old Nicole Calvin.
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