Seattle police twice face hostile crowds at scenes of violent crime
It's too early to say if it's an alarming trend or isolated incidents, but Seattle police say hostile crowds prevented officers from securing an area and slowing medical assistance to victims twice in the last two weeks.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Twice in the past two weeks, Seattle police say, a hostile crowd at the scene of a violent crime has prevented officers from securing an area, slowing medical assistance to victims.
Whether it's a disturbing trend or just isolated incidents, police are not yet able to say.
Nevertheless, "it's something we are aware of and taking note of," Seattle Police Department spokesman Jeff Kappel said Friday."Any issues that threaten officers or public safety are going to be addressed."
In the first incident, a 31-year-old man was shot May 16 in the parking lot of the Rainier Beach Jack in the Box. An officer was flagged down but was then immediately surrounded by a "volatile and hostile crowd" of about 50, according to police.
Some of the young men in the crowd stripped off their shirts and challenged officers to fight, police said.
Precious moments were lost, said police. Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore would later note, "Every minute made a difference in that case."
The victim, Courtney D. Taylor, 31, died.
"It's one thing to not want to talk to police," said police spokesman Mark Jamieson after the shooting, "but it's another thing to challenge police and prevent them from getting help to somebody."
At around 6 p.m. Thursday, a 30-year-old man was stabbed at Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill. His wound proved to be nonfatal.
When police arrived at the park, witnesses pointed out a 29-year-old female suspect, Kappel said. But when officers placed the woman in handcuffs, she began to scream and flail, he said.
At that point, a "hostile" group gathered around officers, "screaming vulgarities and encroaching in their faces," said Kappel.
Officers had to call for additional units to help them bring the scene under control, police said.
Because Seattle Fire Department policy prevents its personnel from rendering aid until an area has been deemed secure by police, medics were unable to assist the victim in either case until additional officers arrived, both police and fire officials said.
Moore said it's not uncommon for medics to have to wait to treat an injured person. In fact, they must do so "every time they are called to an assault with a deadly weapon," he said.
The Fire Department keeps no records on the causes or nature of delays, he said.
"There could be a lot of reasons," said Moore. "There can be a guy running around with a gun, or a suicidal person with a weapon. We don't know. We just wait until our incident commander or police say the scene is secure."
"We are not armed and we don't go into scenes until they have been secured by SPD," Moore said. "We rely on them to make sure our firefighters and paramedics are safe."
The incidents are not connected, and it's not clear why the crowds reacted with hostility toward police.
The Rev. Harriet Walden, who founded Mothers for Police Accountability, said the perception of a so-called hostile crowd can "cut two ways."
She said she has seen instances in which frustration on the part of a crowd was interpreted by police as hostility.
"I've heard of cases where the young people were trying to tell police about a shooting and they felt they weren't being listened to," said Walden. "They infer that nobody cares about the crime."
On the other hand, she said, it was information from witnesses that led police to the suspect in the slaying of Taylor at the Jack in the Box.
Tips led police to identify Taylor's suspected killer as 26-year-old Troy D. Sanders, a rapper who was filming a music video in the parking lot before the shooting.
Sanders, who was charged with second-degree murder, was arrested Friday and is being held on $2 million bail.
Walden also said observers and witnesses need to understand "it's not OK to block emergency services, and we need to nip that in the bud if it's really happening. We have one of the best fire departments in the nation and nobody has a beef with them," she said.
"I don't care how upset people are, we still have to realize we live in a civilized society."
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or email@example.com
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.