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Originally published Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 10:26 AM

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5 charged in attack on man, pregnant teen aboard bus

Five teenagers have been charged in connection with an attack on a pregnant teen and her boyfriend on a Metro bus Nov. 19.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Three of the five teenage girls caught on video viciously attacking a pregnant teen and her boyfriend on a Metro bus last month have significant juvenile criminal histories, mostly for assaults and thefts, according to court records.

One girl was convicted last year of attacking a woman and attempting to steal her purse, while another girl allegedly grabbed and shoved a nurse at Swedish Hospital in August. A third girl has several theft convictions, including one from early 2008 for stealing $918 worth of merchandise from the downtown Seattle Macy's store, according to court records.

On Nov. 19, the five teens four juveniles and one adult — got on the Route 358 bus in Belltown during rush hour and made their way to the back of the packed, articulated coach, according to the King County Sheriff's Office, which is responsible for policing Metro buses, bus stops and transit stations.

Without warning, one of the suspects grabbed an MP-3 player away from 17-year-old Jessica Redmon-Beckstead, who was on the bus with her boyfriend, Jason DeCoste, 19. In the moments that followed, the suspects punched and kicked both Redmon-Beckstead and DeCoste on the bus, despite the posted signs alerting passengers that video-surveillance cameras are on board.

The Sheriff's Office provided video footage of the incident during a news briefing in Sheriff Sue Rahr's office on Thursday. "I was shocked by how vicious it was and how unprovoked it was," Rahr said of the attack.

During the incident, one of the suspects can be heard accusing DeCoste of stealing her cellphone. According to sheriff's spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart, DeCoste briefly met the girl at a party last summer and has denied taking her phone. His girlfriend, who was three months pregnant at the time of the attack, did not know any of the suspects, Urquhart said.

Redmon-Beckstead and DeCoste can be seen getting punched in the face and head several times; at one point, one of the suspects uses a bus railing to lift herself up and repeatedly kick DeCoste in the head. Three of the suspects rummage through his pockets, one of them pulling out a pack of cigarettes.

DeCoste tells the attackers that his girlfriend is pregnant, and one replies: "Nobody hit her in the stomach," while encouraging her friends to "hit her in the face."

"During the course of the video all the suspects are seen laughing during the course of the assaults and even joke about how they did not get any money from the victims. One of the suspects is heard complaining that she broke her nail," according to charging documents filed in the case.

Quickly arrested

On the video, DeCoste and other passengers are heard yelling for the bus driver to stop the bus, and DeCoste is again punched in the face and head as he and Redmon-Beckstead get off the bus. According to the Sheriff's Office, the couple then walked to the front of the bus and notified the driver, who called police and waited for deputies to arrive.

Redmon-Beckstead needed six stitches to close a gash over her left eye, while DeCoste suffered bruising. Both told deputies they were concerned for their unborn child, charging papers say.

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All five suspects got off the bus when the driver stopped. Within half an hour, deputies arrested three of them in the 8500 block of Aurora Avenue, Urquhart said.

According to Urquhart, a fourth suspect, who is 16, was arrested Nov. 30 at her house in South Seattle.

The fifth suspect, 19-year-old Ayana Cain — who complained about breaking a nail — was arrested Dec. 7 at a Belltown beauty salon, he said. Cain, a student at South Lake High School, spent four days in the King County Jail before posting bond on her $50,000 bail, jail records show.

One 16-year-old is currently on electronic home monitoring while three others — ages 17, 16, and 15 — are being held at the King County Juvenile Detention Center. The Seattle Times does not typically name juvenile-crime suspects. King County prosecutors have filed paperwork in hopes of charging the 17-year-old as an adult.

The four juveniles have been charged with second-degree robbery, and Cain was charged with second-degree assault, according to charging documents.

The suspects, who were provided ORCA bus passes by Seattle Public Schools, have had their passes revoked and are banned from riding Metro buses for a year, according to the Sheriff's Office. If they are discovered on a bus during that time, they can be arrested for criminal trespassing.

Virtues of video

During the roughly four-minute assault, no one on the bus called 911, but Rahr said people were probably too shocked to react.

"When a situation erupts very quickly, it takes awhile for people to respond," she said.

Though Rahr characterized the attack as "an isolated incident," she said emphasis patrols are being assigned to Route 358 buses to ensure riders feel safe. But she pointed out that the route alone carries nearly 10,000 people each weekday and more than 3 million people a year.

Urquhart encouraged passengers who witness crimes to call 911 but not to get involved. He said the bus driver "did everything right" once he became aware of the disturbance at the back of his bus — and passengers can be heard yelling for him to stop the coach.

"He did not move that bus. He kept that bus in place until police could get there and interview witnesses," which led to the quick arrest of three of the suspects, Urquhart said. "This is how it's supposed to work," he said.

The bus is one of nearly 400 Metro coaches currently equipped with state-of-the-art video equipment, which records both video and audio. Cameras will be added to another 250 buses over the next few years, Rahr said.

In releasing the video of the Nov. 19 incident, Rahr said video cameras aboard buses are a deterrent to crime. She said there is a more than 90 percent arrest rate for crimes that are captured on video.

In a Sept. 17 incident, a surveillance video helped police identify and arrest a man who allegedly punched a mentally disabled man just after stepping off the No. 7 Metro bus on Rainier Avenue South, near Mount Baker Station.

The unprovoked attack left the victim, 55, with a broken jaw and face cuts. Police arrested Raymel J. Curry, 32, who has been arrested or cited more than 50 times, on suspicion of second-degree assault.

Previous attacks

The 16-year-old who was arrested Nov. 30 and is still in custody was convicted of attempted first-degree robbery last year for attacking a woman outside her apartment building and trying to steal her purse.

The 16-year-old and two other girls followed Lauren Luttrell, 29, off a bus in the Ravenna neighborhood and demanded money, according to Luttrell and court records. When Luttrell refused, the 16-year-old grabbed Luttrell by the hair and pushed her to the ground. A second girl "banged my head against the door frame a few times" and the 16-year-old delivered several kicks to her body.

The girls laughed during the assault, "which I think is messed up," Luttrell said Thursday. "They all just seemed very mean-spirited."

Luttrell wasn't surprised to hear the 16-year-old was suspected in another attack: "She was the main girl of the three who attacked me.

"Definitely I think they were enjoying it. They hadn't tried to take my purse until they'd verbally and physically messed with me," said Luttrell.

The 16-year-old was sentenced to 15 to 36 weeks in juvenile detention, but the court records did not indicate how much time she served.

In February, the 16-year-old was again arrested for possessing a stolen vehicle — and was supposed to report for drug treatment 10 days before the Nov. 19 bus assault, court records show.

The same 16-year-old and another suspect in the bus attack, who is 15, got into a fight while visiting the other 16-year-old suspect in the hospital in August, according to court records. The girls were fighting over a laptop and the 15-year-old allegedly grabbed and shoved a nurse, the records say. The 15-year-old was charged with assault.

The 17-year-old suspect has been arrested numerous times for theft for stealing from a beauty-supply store, a grocery and two department stores, including the downtown Macy's.

Seattle Times staff reporter Mike Lindblom and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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