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Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - Page updated at 07:00 p.m.
Clothes may tie Seattle suspects to May Day destruction
By Jennifer Sullivan
Seattle Times staff reporter
More than three months after masked, black-clad vandals smashed windows in downtown Seattle during May Day protests, police are focusing their investigation on three men and a woman, according to court documents.
In recent weeks, police have filed search-warrant documents in King County Superior Court as part of their "May Day Task Force" investigation. Though some May Day vandalism suspects have been charged in Superior or U.S. District Court, no cases involving the suspects mentioned in the most recent search-warrant filings have been forwarded to prosecutors.
"This case is still very much active and ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to call our May Day Task Force tip line at 206-233-2666," Seattle police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said Monday.
In the documents, police say that they have narrowed in on the suspects by confiscating clothing possibly worn during the protests and with help from the state Department of Corrections (DOC).
One suspected participant, a 21-year-old Shoreline woman, was identified after her boyfriend's DOC officer contacted police. The officer, Geoff Ehrhardt, contacted police in late May after talking with his client and finding out the man had been at the protest. Ehrhardt then viewed surveillance images of possible protesters, and recognized his client's girlfriend, according to search-warrant paperwork.
Police went to the couple's Shoreline home and confiscated a black jacket, a camouflage backpack, black pants, two pairs of goggles, two bandannas and a green sweatshirt, according to the paperwork.
In addition, police searched the South Seattle home of a 23-year-old man, seeking a red stocking cap, a plaid sleeveless shirt, black pants, brown shoes, a red bandanna, a black jacket, a black sweatshirt, goggles and a beanie-style cap, according to the paperwork. The man evidently was recognized by police.
In the case of a 27-year-old Seattle man, police searched his Ballard home to find a pink headband, a purple scarf, a lavender button-up shirt, a gray sweatshirt, a brown belt, black pants, black/white Nike sneakers and a brown/black backpack.
Officers said they were led to this man through an anonymous tip to the May Day Task Force phone tip line.
According to police, about 75 black-clad people at the protest used long poles, hammers and other objects to smash windows in vehicles and at several downtown Seattle businesses, including NikeTown. They then shed their black clothes and masks, and merged back into the crowd of nonviolent protesters.
According to the search-warrant paperwork, repairs to NikeTown amounted to nearly $53,000; a Wells Fargo Bank at Fourth Avenue and Seneca Street sustained nearly $26,000 in damage; and a Verizon Wireless store received $1,905 in damage.
In the days after the protests, several people suspected of participating in the vandalism spree were arrested and charged in King County Superior Court. One man, Robert Ditrani, has since pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and received a 90-day suspended sentence, two days in jail and a year of probation, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
Cody Ingram, 23, from Burlington, Vt., was charged in U.S. District Court with destruction of government property, accused of using a wooden stick to smash glass doors at the William Kenzo Nakamura U.S. Federal Courthouse on Fifth Avenue, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Though Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Police Chief John Diaz praised the police response to the May Day protests, an internal memo given to Diaz suggested flawed planning contributed to widespread violence and vandalism, department sources familiar with the matter told The Seattle Times.
A large part of the criticism focused on Assistant Police Chief Mike Sanford and his role in managing the city's response to the marches, including his sudden decision to rush into the downtown crowd to make an arrest, without protective gear. Officers clad in riot gear had to help pull him from a hostile crowd, diverting police resources from the increasingly violent noontime march that left store and car windows smashed.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or email@example.com. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.
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