Several Slog readers have sent in tips about a recent post on Wallingford's neighborhood blog, Wallyhood.org, about a resident who lives near N 49th Street and Burke Avenue and reports confronting a group of teenagers who he saw breaking into his car. The resident shouted, the kids ran, the resident called the cops.
Here's the pertinent part:
The police showed up in about 7 minutes and they couldn’t find the group. They did find one youngster who lived in the area who sort of fit the description of the one who ran. He had nothing on him or any priors. The police think that they likely had a car nearby, ducked into a store or live nearby.
The police asked that I share this experience with you all and if you see a group of black teens wandering the neighborhood, to call the police.
I read that last sentence and my bullshit detector started trilling.
I'm skeptical any SPD officer would tell a potential crime victim to call the police simply if they saw "a group of black teens" because that kind of advice—and those resulting 911 calls—would be utterly useless to responding officers.
As SPD spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb explains, "We need specific information in order to make a stop." Info like physical descriptors of subjects (meaning: piercings, hairstyles, height, janky noses, not just race), the type of clothing they're wearing, the car they're driving, a license plate number, anything that makes a person or their mode of transportation unique enough for officers to make a legal stop. That said, it's pretty weird that the resident doesn't offer up any physical or clothing description of the teens—even though he (or she) says he (or she) confronted them.
In order to make a legal stop, "We need to develop reasonable suspicion, which is the first step to probable cause," Whitcomb explains.
Whitcomb is also skeptical that the situation happened as the resident describes. He adds, "It needs to be pretty specific description in order for me to want to get out and make a contact." Race doesn't cut it.
In case that isn't clear: Black teens are allowed to roam around neighborhoods, even lily-white Wallingford. Roaming in packs, as all teens do, doesn't make them criminals.
That said, the best part of that otherwise pretty racist and useless Wallingford blog post is its comments section:
From the Everett Herald:
State elections officials noticed something fishy when they began reviewing signatures to place a referendum on gay marriage on the 2012 ballot. The handwriting seemed remarkably similar on many of the petitions for Referendum 74. They spotted a pattern that led back to one paid signature gatherer — Julie A. Klein, 54, of Marysville.
Her petitions—more than 50 in all—were separated from the stacks for a closer look. Of the 1,001 signatures she submitted, 834 did not match the handwriting on file of registered voters.
Klein allegedly told a State Patrol detective that she was facing financial hardship and needed money “to keep the lights on.” She allegedly admitted finding names in the phone book.
Ms. Klein now faces felony charges for her alleged tampering with democracy.
Thank you, inadvertent Slog tipper Cherry Canoe.
When I passed Med Mix the day before its back was destroyed by a fire...
Cameras captured a masked figure spray-painting the words “4 Pratt and Trayv” on the wall before pouring gas on the Med Mix building and lighting it. The fire burned the rear of the restaurant and left the rest with water and smoke damage.
I really do hope there's more to this sad story than what's contained in this video...
CD News is reporting that the fire that damaged much of the back of Med Mix on Monday morning (August 12) was not an accident...
We have an official update from the city regarding the early morning fire at Med Mix on 23rd and Union. Seattle Fire Investigators have determined the incident was an incendiary fire, meaning one that is intentionally set.This location has a history...
[W]itnesses reported seeing Hackett's black Lexus roll slowly into a tree after the shooting.
Nathan Vass is an artist and a bus driver. He showed recently at Blindfold Gallery, and on his blog he writes about all manner of things, including, today, this morning's shooting over a fare dispute.
Blindfold Gallery has a comprehensive record of his show, including a link to video of his artist talk, here.
A woman was accidentally shot by her friend while grabbing a cup of coffee in a Florida Starbucks:
Police say a loaded handgun in a Florida woman’s purse accidentally discharged when she dropped it in a St. Petersberg’s Starbucks on Saturday. The bullet from 51-year-old Pamela Beck’s gun struck her friend, 38-year-old Amie Peterson, above the knee. The wound was not serious and Peterson was released from the hospital late Saturday night.
... Starbucks, which has been criticized in the past for its refusal to ban armed customers, released this statement:
“At Starbucks, the safety and security of our partners who are our employees and customers is our top priority. We are aware of the accident that took place and are thankful that nobody was seriously injured.”
Bullshit. If safety was really Starbucks's top priority, they'd ban firearms in their chain stores. Instead, this victim will be lucky to hobble away from her accidental shooting with a $5 gift card. (Sorry you were shot in our store! Come visit us again real soon—your next Frappuccino's on us!)
This guest post is by Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), representing 7,000 visual journalists throughout the country.
Unfortunately, the incident involving Dominic Holden and King County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Patrick "K.C." Saulet is all too common an occurrence throughout this country. What is particularly disappointing is that as a supervisory officer, the sergeant should have known better. While it might have been reasonable for Sgt. Saulet to ask Mr. Holden to step back a few feet, it was a clear violation of Mr. Holden’s constitutional rights to be ordered to leave a public sidewalk under threat of arrest. As stated in a decision by the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, “A police officer is not a law unto himself; he cannot give an order that has no colorable legal basis and then arrest a person who defies it.” Threatening to do so is just as egregious.
The First Amendment is not absolute but rather subject to reasonable “time, place and manner restrictions.” Ever since 9/11 there has been a heightened awareness of anyone taking pictures or recording events in public. This issue has only been exacerbated by the widespread proliferation of cellphone cameras and the ability of anyone to post photos and recordings on the internet. Many in law enforcement still have the erroneous belief that they can order people to stop taking pictures or recording in public. Interference and in some cases arrests stemming from those actions have led to a number of court cases resulting in: six-figure settlements, new policies and procedures and sometimes serious disciplinary actions against the officers involved.
In one such case that cost the City of Boston $172,000 the court stated “a citizen’s right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.” “Gathering information about government officials in a form that can be readily disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting ‘the free discussion of governmental affairs.’” And that is exactly what Mr. Holden was doing when he was accosted by Sergeant Saulet.
The US Department of Justice has also taken note of these incidents and supports the position that the public and members of the media have a “coextensive” First Amendment right to record police officers performing public duties. The DOJ also stated “the derogation of these rights erodes public confidence in our police departments, decreases the accountability of our governmental officers, and conflicts with the liberties that the Constitution was designed to uphold.” While the press may not have a greater right of access than the public they have no less right either. For the sergeant to have singled out a member of the media with a camera is a clear abridgment of those First Amendment rights.
The New York Times today has the story of a 17-year-old Colombian immigrant who was an artist and graffiti writer in Miami Beach. He died after being Tasered by the police for tagging a shuttered McDonald's.
I hope nobody liked this:
Derek Medina, 31, posted a picture of her blood-stained body — collapsed and contorted on the kitchen floor — to his Facebook feed with a note.
"Im going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife love you guys miss you guys takecare Facebook people you will see me in the news."
And now we really enter the heart of darkness:
Other Facebook users reacted with disgust to the posting of the picture of his wife's corpse. She was 26.
"this is crazy omg ... guy kills his wife post pic in facebook."
The disgust did not prevent the commenters from sharing Medina's photo. Again and again.
Medina self-published self-help books and maintained a website called EmotionalWriter.com. His books claim to be about "effective communication" and "marriage counseling tips," according to the website.
Are you ready for a sentence I never thought I'd write? Okay: If, like me, you were blown away by Dominic Holden's story in this week's Stranger, you should also read this Cracked article. It's by Soren Bowie, and it's titled "5 Apologies to the Cops Who Beat Me Up for No Reason."
Altherton, California, is one of America's most expensive places to live and its police blotter has become mildly famous for its rich-person silliness: a woman calling police because a "strange man" was at her door (he turned to be a deliveryman), "a woman whose finger got stuck in a drain was reported to be conscious and breathing," etc.
But Kent Brewster looked at an archive of vehicle code violations between Feb and July of this year. Guess what he found?
His analysis of the data confirms what you might suspect from that first glance:
175 out of the 182 drivers cited have Hispanic names.
Almost nobody from Atherton ever gets a ticket. Here are the stats:
Redwood City: 96
East Palo Alto: 23
Menlo Park: 11
At least 64 result in the vehicle being left at the scene.
At least 31 result in the car being confiscated. Cars towed under 14602.6 VC (20 on this list) are impounded for 30 days, costing around $1800 ($180 to tow, at least $50/day to store, $130 to bail) to recover.
If you'll look on a map, you'll notice that El Camino Real crosses Atherton at its narrowest point. 56 citations were issued along less than a mile of road in under six months. 43 more were written on Middlefield Road, the other main access from Redwood City to points south of Atherton.
It's a close, data-driven look into how, in some communities, police act less like impartial enforcers of the law and more like guard dogs at a gated mansion.
It also shows that the consequences aren't just irritating and insulting to the rest of us, but can really screw with a person's life and bank account.
Thanks to Slog tipper Greg.
Stranger news editor Dominic Holden was interviewed yesterday by a KOMO reporter about his recent interactions with King County and Seattle law enforcement, which culminated in officers threatening Dominic with arrest and harassment for taking photographs and asking questions on a public street in the International District.
Dom wrote about his experiences this week for the paper. But if you're not a fan of wordzzz, and you yearn to see the subtle hilarity of a reporter-on-reporter interview, here's how he describes the situation to KOMO:
Congratulations on your big break in teevee media, Dom!
King County Sergeant Patrick "K.C." Saulet, who threatened to arrest me after I took photos of him other cops downtown, has been placed on administrative leave. Detective Jason Stanley says that when Saulet showed up for work Sunday morning, Sheriff Urquhart sent him home. Due to my complaints and Saulet's extensive record of misconduct, Detective Stanley says, the department is taking extraordinary steps to "get to the bottom of it." This could be a sign that, under Sheriff John Urquhart, discipline is finally improving.
In this week's paper, I have a long new piece about Saulet being taken off the street, his long rap of misconduct, how his superiors recommended firing him years ago but former Republican sheriff Dave Reichert kept him on the force anyway (Reichert is now in Congress), and the statistics that show most bad cops never get seriously punished.
Whoever called police to the scene didn't see what was happening, but said they "heard a loud argument," according to the narrative report. When police arrived, 37-year-old Jacobs was "bleeding heavily from his nose," and told officers that he had been walking home "when three males and two females began walking with him," near East Olive Way and East Denny Way. He told police that "they began calling him a 'faggot,'" according to the report. Then, he reported, "the group chased after him... caught him... and began punching him repeatedly and knocked him to the ground." The suspects, described on the blotter as two white females and three white males, were last seen heading north on Summit Avenue and were not apprehended. The blotter also notes that Jacobs "had been drinking and could only provide the vaguest of descriptions for the suspects." What appears to be a second witness "observed two males chase [Jacobs] across E Olive Wy near Starbucks to the park at Summit Ave E and E John St" but "did not witness the assault."
Jacobs was transported to Harborview with a broken nose, lacerations to his face, and an injured knee. Officer Kevin M Jones, who authored the narrative report, writes at the end, "[The victim] requested that I call his mother to advise her what happened."
As readers may remember, five men were charged in June for a bloody hate crime, after which the senior deputy prosecuting attorney in charge of hate crime cases, Mike Hogan, said that for all its renown as a gay-friendly neighborhood, "it's common to see people not from our area... go up to the Pike/Pine district and offend there."
Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Jason.
The Seattle Police Department doesn't know which cop did it, but officials say they like it: Over the weekend an articulate, concise patrol officer launched an "Ask Me Anything" thread on Reddit where he or she fielded inquiries about legal pot, reporting crimes, videotaping officers, and vigilante superdouche Phoneix Jones.
Posting under the name GoHawks206, the cop expressed some trepidation at the outset, writing: "Policy says we aren't supposed to speak to the Media but the way it's worded it doesn't seem to include sites like Reddit. I've been on Reddit for about four years and like the dialog that other officers' AMAs have opened up."
SPD spokesman Sergeant Sean Whitcomb says the officer shouldn't fear any reprimand.
"It was all well done. It’s very informative," says Whitcomb, who laments that Seattle cops have had a "culture of fear" about speaking publicly about their work. Holding an AMA on Reddit lets a cop "explain what we do and why we do it. We are in the process of writing new policy to perhaps encourage some of these interactions. Had this officer called our office and presented this as a concept we likely would have approved it."
So what'd the mystery cop say?
Stacks of readers who saw my post last week about cops hassling me when I took photos of police officers downtown have sent me e-mails. Some were sweet; some were really depressing. I got lots of stories from people who were hassled by police officers, filed complaints, and promptly saw nothing happen. Seems like that's SOP in most cases. But none was more depressing an e-mail exchange with guy who thinks prevention is the best medicine for police misconduct. And by that, he thinks prevention is a pistol [sic throughout]:
Seems it’s about time to strap on the ol’ leg iron & start open carrying in downtown…but only with a person such as you to document the interactions
You think a gun would have helped in that situation?
It would probably have escalated the situation in the sense that just from the way he was acting, that KCSO deputy would have used it as a reason to put you on the ground…and you could end up with wuite the settlement J
Or I could have died, right?
I think you misunderstand: carrying it, not handling it
Check out opencarry.or
Oh, he means I'd never handle it. Just open-carry the gun and never use it. Because open-carry activists never become gun-brandishing killers. Sorry, letter dude, but by your own admission, wearing the "ol' leg iron" would escalate the situation and result in being taken down—maybe killed. It's hard to spend that settlement money when I'm dead. The thing is, I'd never want to make that point or collect that settlement. Open-carry isn't about defending your rights by exercising them, or about keeping cops in check; open-carry is just about intimidating people, including good cops, who already have a scary enough job.
Without any request for comment, Mayor Mike McGinn sent a strongly worded statement this evening about my recent allegations of police misconduct. In an incident involving city and county police, SPD Officer John Marion escalated a normal exchange into a threat to "bother" me at my work. As I wrote earlier today, I think the Seattle police chief was wrong to mischaracterize the officer's menacing comments simply as "rudeness." Take it away, McGinn:
I've been following this issue with concern. The SPD manual requires that our officers will "be professional and courteous at all times." While I cannot comment on an active investigation, generally speaking, threatening and intimidating behavior, including threats of harassment, are not professional or courteous and are unacceptable in our police department.
We are training our officers in LEED—Listen and Explain with Equity and Dignity—so that officers will carry out the standard in the manual and de-escalate situations. We are working with the monitor and the police department to implement the Settlement Agreement. We will examine ways to further strengthen de-escalation policies and training. For now, our manual and our OPA review process give us tools to hold our officers accountable to our professional and courtesy standards. I will be following this matter closely to determine whether the department has taken to heart the changes the public wants to see.
It's nice to see the mayor take a clear stance on this. As the city's commander in chief, who has made mistakes with a troubled police force (to be fair, a police force that had troubles long before he arrived), McGinn is distinguishing what will and won't be tolerated by our cops. Still, I wish more complaints about misconduct got this much attention—because I'm sure some police officers talk to civilians in Seattle this way all the time, usually people of color and the homeless, and the chief doesn't issue a statement, the mayor says nothing, and it passes without a peep in the press.
In the last couple days, the Seattle Police Department has been heaped with scorn (especially on Facebook and Twitter). I don't want to let Officer Marion off the hook—I contend he was harassing and intimidating me. But my most serious complaints concern a county police officer who threatened to arrest me for taking photos in public. I argued in a complaint filed today that King County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Patrick "K.C." Saulet stopped me without cause, in what I believe was an illegal stop, with the singular intent of suppressing my constitutional right to observe activities in public. That's worse than what the SPD officer did. I don't expect the King County Sheriff or King County Executive to issue statements, but it is damn nice see Seattle leaders proactively condemn misconduct.
Yesterday, Seattle Police Department chief Jim Pugel sent an e-mail to all his police officers, and posted the identical statement on the SPD Blotter, about my story on misconduct by Seattle cops and King County Sheriff's deputies. I haven't had a chance to write about it until now—who knew filing official complaints, testifying in recorded affidavits, and talking to lawyers takes so freakin' long? No wonder most people never do it. I'm working on a longer story about the complaint process. But for now, here's Chief Pugel's statement:
I am aware of the article by Mr. Holden in the Stranger Slog documenting the allegation of rudeness by one of my police officers.
Once we learned of the incident the department immediately referred the complaint to the Office of Professional Accountability. I have discussed it with OPA Director Pierce Murphy.
While I cannot comment on the specific complaint, the allegation, if true, does not match what the department teaches in our LEED (Listen and Explain with Empathy and Dignity) training, nor with the four cornerstones of my administration which are ‘Excellence, Justice, Humility and Harm Reduction’.
I have known Mr. Holden personally for many years, have regular communications with him and have assured him that we will get to the truth.
Pugel is a good guy, and a solid chief, and I appreciate the department is conducting this investigation. But he's missing a key point: I'm not alleging that a Seattle police officer was rude to me. Rudeness would be a cop telling me to fuck off. Rudeness is mocking my questions. Rudeness is saying my momma's so dumb she stared at a box of juice because it said "concentrate."
I'm alleging something more serious. Responding to a simple question about who's in charge, Officer John Marion escalated a normal interaction by asking where I worked, requesting a business card, and then, with what I believe was malicious intent, repeatedly threatening to come "bother" me at my office. That's harassment. That's a deliberate attempt at intimidation.
But it's not clear that Officer Marion's behavior qualifies as anything more than rudeness under SPD's policies. Pierce Murphy, director of the Office of Professional Accountability, who is in charge of all internal police investigations, called me yesterday to talk about the incident. He acknowledged that my complaint was about Officer Marion threatening "to harass you at your place of work, not that he was being a jerk." But the question for him isn't whether that was a violation of Washington State law or the city's criminal code; it's whether Marion violated something specific in SPD's own policy and procedure manual. Murphy isn't certain a relevant policy exists. After only two months on the job, Murphy said, "I don’t claim to know the SPD policy manual in and out yet." I asked him what happens if a complaint doesn't fall neatly into a category for which there's a penalty, a question that Murphy described as "a hypothetical."
It's up to Murphy what—if any—charge is brought against Officer Marion. He's not sure how this process will play out, and he admits, "I don’t know if at this point the OPA is at the efficacy level that you would want or I would want. We'll see how well it works on this one. I kind of feel like I've got nothing to hide and everything to gain from you shedding your journalistic light on it."
I appreciate that Murphy proactively called me and I appreciate his openness. All the brass has been forthcoming and transparent—but this already raises questions about the complaint system. Does there have to be a specific policy against something in order for SPD to acknowledge that what an officer did was wrong? Is the complaint program rigged to only recognize certain problems such that it protects cops and diminishes complaints?
Sergeant Krista Bair, the OPA investigator who is handling my intake and is a total pro, asked that I not identify her by name. I made no promise. I understand her wanting to stay out of this, but I am naming her anyway because this process should be transparent. As for the policies—she says my complaint would likely be governed by section 5.001 in the SPD's Policy and Procedures Manual—she points out that "you can't write for every scene possible on the street." It's a fair point.
However, the US Department of Justice zeroed in on Seattle cops escalating normal encounters into situations involving excessive force. If spontaneously threatening to harass someone at their job isn't escalation, then I don't know what is. Those are fighting words for some people. SPD policies should ban escalation like this... and it should be a more serious charge than "rudeness."
Yesterday, downtown business interests sent a letter calling on Mayor Mike McGinn and the Seattle City Council to address a recent trend of assaults—neck stabbings, beatings, and the like—in downtown Seattle.
"The level of intimidation, physical assault, and violence, particularly in and near Westlake Park, has been growing in a very visible way," states the seven-page letter (.pdf), signed by 41 business people. The letter goes on to list a few of the incidents, including several beatings and most recently, the arrest of a suspect who was allegedly smashing windows downtown with a pipe. "The frequency of this type of street violence in Downtown's most visible and traveled public spaces demands immediate new enforcement resources and strategies from the city."
I've heard speculation that the letter was sent yesterday to damage to McGinn's re-election efforts by making him look soft on public safety right before the primary, but I don't really buy that. I mean, you can't argue with neck stabbings and it's not like they're out there ginning up public beatings to make the mayor look bad. Political people are a paranoid bunch.
Anyway, the letter-writers are calling on the city to install all-day park rangers in the city's most popular downtown parks, and increase Seattle police foot and bike patrols downtown. They note that the ratio of sworn officers to residents has declined since 2000, while also acknowledging that "911 calls for service in the West Precinct [downtown] are down" for this time of year, when compared to last year.
In response, McGinn held an impromptu press conference yesterday to address the businesses' concerns. I didn't make it to the presser (BECAUSE I WASN'T INVITED, SOB) but here's the gist of McGinn's response:
The city has just hired two more park rangers and looking to add more in the city's 2014 budget, so look for that line item come September. SPD is also hiring 30 new officers over the next year and West Precinct has been sending additional officers to hot spots like Westlake Park for some time now. In fact, the city added $150,000 for 2300 hours of overtime to fund additional patrols downtown, as well as $67,000 to continue mental health services for the Crisis Intervention Team (which continues a program initiated by a federal grant that expired last October).
Looks like you're going to have to become a bit more circumspect with your neck stabbings, ladies and gents.
I was riding my bike past Fourth Avenue South and South Jackson Street at about 7:25 p.m. last night when I saw several officers huddled around a young black man sitting down. The cops were speaking loudly at him. As a reporter, when I see a buzz of police activity, I almost always stop to see what's going on. As the officers started barking louder at the man, I took out my phone and snapped this pic:
From 20-25 feet away, I couldn't discern exactly what was happening, but the man eventually stood up to leave. That's when one of the officers eyed me and yelled something like, "He's got a camera!"
King County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Patrick "K.C." Saulet rushed over and told me to leave or be arrested. He claimed I was standing on transit station property; the plaza belongs to King County Metro's International District Station and I could not stand there, he said. I backed up about two feet over the line that he pointed out (two parts of the same walkway) until I was unambiguously on the City of Seattle's sidewalk, near a utility pole by the curb. But Officer Saulet then insisted that I would be arrested unless I left the entire block.
Now, let me pause for a second to say this: When the US Department of Justice alleged that the Seattle Police Department was routinely using excessive force, federal prosecutors stressed in their report that officers were escalating ordinary interactions into volatile, sometimes violent, situations. Now a federal court controls the SPD under a reform plan, and the King County Sheriff's Department has faced extensive scrutiny for officer misconduct, so the two agencies should be showing more civility on the beat. Or so you'd think.
Back to Saulet: "You need to leave or you're coming with me," he said while repeating his arrest threat yet again. Commuters, shoppers, and vagrants were milling about the sidewalk and plaza—some people were passing closer to the center of the police activity than I was—but I was the only one on that busy block told to leave (the guy watching the police and taking their picture). I hadn't tried speaking to the officers or bothering them in any way, I hadn't even identified myself as a reporter, and I was standing on public property. The officers did not accuse me of any offense other than standing there. At this point, the man police were questioning had left. So I asked for the officer's name—I wanted to know who was threatening to arrest me—and he pointed to his embroidered shirt breast; as I took a photo of it, he lifted his hand, apparently in an attempt to block the shot.
(What I didn't know at the time is that Sergeant Saulet has a long history of abusive policing. In 2006, the Seattle PI reported the he has 12 sustained misconduct complaints against him and "one of the worst misconduct histories in the King County Sheriff's Office." Two years later, The Stranger reported that Saulet had been reprimanded five times for excessive use of force and four times for improper personal conduct. Nonetheless, Saulet has kept his job and his estimable rank as sergeant.)
After snapping Saulet's picture, I rode my bike across the street because I didn't want to get arrested, even though standing on the sidewalk and taking photos of police from a reasonable distance seemed legal. I was jotting down a few notes so I'd remember what happened when I saw three officers leaving the scene. I asked them who at the scene was the commanding officer. They explained that they were Seattle cops and they didn't know which county officer was in charge. Then Seattle police officer John Marion asked why I was asking.
I explained to him that I'd just been threatened with arrest for standing on the sidewalk (even though he'd just watched the whole thing), so I wanted to know who was in charge and if he thought it was illegal to stand on the sidewalk.
Instead of answering, Officer Marion asked why I was asking him questions.
I know it's sunny out and you're all like, Block Party Woooo!, but allow me to shit all over your TGIFing for just a second:
A 15-year-old kidnap victim was held in a metal toolbox fitted with breathing holes by two Lake County marijuana growers, who sexually assaulted the girl and forced her to trim their plants, federal prosecutors allege.
... Agents raided the Lake County property... and found more than 1,300 marijuana plants, two rifles, three pistols, tactical vests, night-vision goggles and body armor, Jensen said.
In Balletto's trailer, the agent said, were objects "consistent with sexual bondage and sadomasochism. ... Among the items was a homemade 'rack,' which consisted of a large wooden frame with eyebolts at the corners, presumably to attach a human to the device and immobilize them."
According to the complaint, the girl said the men repeatedly had sex with her and locked her in the box— which was marked with her first initial—to "prove a point." The girl said the men would wash her and the box down by inserting a hose into it.
Sorry. Sometimes the alleged crimes I read about are so heinous they must be shared with others so that I can feel less isolated in my horror.
Let's go right to the core of the report:
The case attracted significant media attention after a note, apparently written in the form of a "haiku" poem — a short form of Japanese verse — was left hanging in the window of the fugitive man's home.The 63-year-old poet allegedly murdered five people in a remote and mountainous corner of Japan. One of the victims hated his dog.
According to the authorities, the poem translated as: "Setting on fire, smoke gives delight, to country fellows." They have refused to draw a link between the poem and the killings.
Today, Seattle police officers arrested a veteran Seattle detective on suspicion of domestic violence and cyberstalking a former love interest, allegedly by creating a fake Facebook page in her name. The department is holding a presser right now about the arrest—we couldn't get down there on short notice—but SPD Blotter has the details:
The victim went to the employee’s home on July 17 to confront him in front of his family. The officer allegedly retaliated by creating a salacious facebook alias purporting to be her.
Later the same day, the victim made an in person complaint to the Seattle Police Office of Professional Accountability (OPA). The victim told investigators that the counterfeit facebook page caused her fear and embarrassment.
Due to the criminal nature of the complaint, OPA investigators turned the case over to detectives in the Special Operations Bureau. These detectives worked the case over the next several days, developing probable cause and identifying and collecting evidence. Detectives also de-activated the ersatz facebook page.
Detectives arrested the employee this morning. He was cooperative and the arrest occurred without incident. The employee surrendered his badge and gun. Detectives booked him into the Snohomish County Jail for Investigation of Identity Theft/Domestic Violence – Cyberstalking.
The detective has 17 years of experience with SPD. He's been placed on paid administrative leave from the department, pending formal charges.
"This morning, I filed a claim with the Seattle police department," said Caroline Durocher, who's quoted in the piece above and alleges that her manager forced her to finish closing duties even after she'd been clocked out. Two other workers, who hadn't testified at city council, came forward as well—one, Nassim Bayou, who reported he's never gotten a full half-hour break on his shifts; another, Geoff Belforti, alleges he never received his last paycheck from a former employer.
These small crimes add up, especially for people living paycheck to paycheck. As I reported at the time, when Durocher testified to city council, she said she'd missed out on around $1,000 worth of hours she should've been paid. She lived in Shoreline and was trying to move to Seattle to be near her Ballard job, but she couldn't save up the moving costs. Not only that, she had to get back home to Shoreline after her closing shift, when buses were no longer running. So, she said, "I would walk the eight miles down Aurora, at three in the morning, every day."
The city officials who showed up today—the mayor, city council member Mike O'Brien, and chief criminal prosecutor from the city attorney's office Craig Sims—were there to say that the city takes this crime seriously. All three got up and wagged a stern finger at employers who short employees and said they were here to show workers that this is a crime that can be reported, investigated, and prosecuted. But that doesn't touch the fact that there haven't been any prosecutions under the city's wage-theft law. Sims said that less than 25 cases have been referred to his office by SPD, and those cases were "not factually sufficient."
Their answer to that, says Sims, is to "actively [go] on a campaign" to reach out to organizations working with populations that might be suffering wage theft but not reporting it—unions, Casa Latina. They're letting those outreach workers know what this crime looks like and what kinds of evidence might need to be collected for a case to be built and actually prosecuted. SPD, for its part, says that they take wage theft crimes very seriously. "It’s a big deal to us," says spokesman Sean Whitcomb. He tells me that if they receive a complaint, it goes to the burglary and theft unit, "where actual detectives do follow-up. [It's] not just an officer who stops by and takes a report." He concedes, "There’s definitely room for creativity," in terms of being more proactive, but he questions whether that's the role of police, who work under a complaint-based system.
Hopefully, an outreach campaign to vulnerable populations will be more effective than just passing a law and hoping people—who have every reason to fear retaliation from employers, from people who may not trust law enforcement—will report the crime.
Heidi Yewman fulfilled the bare minimum requirements for gun ownership in America. She didn't take any training or safety classes, because she wasn't legally required to take them. Then she walked around with that gun for a month and wrote about her experiences. I grant you that this is a very gimmicky concept for an article, but it feels as though Yewman got at some truth in the piece. I especially think this paragraph is insightful:
I thought the gun would make me feel more powerful, more confident, and less fearful. I was wrong. All I felt was fear. Physically taking the gun out of the safe and putting it in a holster on my hip literally reminded me that I was going out into a big bad scary unsafe world. There were days when I put the gun back in the safe and stayed home because it simply took too much energy to be scared. It was easier to be at home without the worry and responsibility of being “the good guy with the gun.” My awareness of looming tragedy was abundant. If I had to pull the trigger, my life, the person I shot, both of our families, and all who witnessed it would be changed forever.
The few times I've held a gun, the world suddenly became a video game, or a movie. It adds a hyperactive drama to life that I don't believe to be very healthy, one in which you could at any moment become the hero (or villain) of a perilous situation. Everyone is a potential attacker, every moment could bring with it a tragic accident. Everything is something to fear. It's no way to live.
We rarely stop to acknowledge that at any given moment on any given day, each of us could become the victim of a violent crime or freak accident. But should the worst happen, the best we can hope for is to have a good Samaritan on hand to help—someone like thirty-one-year-old Brandon Page. A Slog tipper alerted me to the fact that on Saturday, July 14, Page worked to save not one but two people during a chain of events that is both freakish and strikingly heroic. Here's his story:
Page, a server at Oddfellows Cafe + Bar on Capitol Hill, was working the closing shift on Saturday when he and several coworkers heard gunfire on 10th Avenue. The time was around 3:00 a.m.
"The shots were so close, I ran out to see what was going on," remembers Page, who also volunteers for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility. He noticed a man lying on the ground in the street in front of the Rancho Bravo parking lot. Page ordered his coworkers to call 911 and approached the man. There, he found a 19-year-old, later identified as Tilahun M. Alemayehu, bleeding from three gunshot wounds to his abdomen. Having been trained in first aid (and acknowledging that he collects "old medical textbooks for light reading"), Page staunched the man's bleeding as best he could and kept him awake until paramedics arrived.
"I remember trying to get him to tell me his name, to reassure him that an ambulance was on its way, to make sure he didn't move," Page recalls. It felt like the ambulance took forever, he says. Eventually, he noticed police standing over him, gently insisting that he let the paramedics take over.
Page was covered in blood, shaken, exhausted. His coworkers kindly called his boyfriend to pick him up and take him home to the unit they shared in the six-story, beautifully shabby Biltmore Apartments.
It was around 4:00 a.m. Page ran a hot shower. His partner ran back to their car, and on his way back to the couple's apartment, he noticed an unusual smell in their hallway: smoke.
This spring, after 24-year-old Federal Way resident Justine Baez and three other people at her apartment building were shot to death by Baez's boyfriend, I wrote a long piece about domestic violence homicides—particularly, the link between domestic violence and mass shootings. Doing research for the story was devastating, because each step was a process of learning more and more about the utter darkness of humanity—listening to terrified 911 calls, reading reports on domestic violence fatalities, watching a memorial of flowers and balloons grow and grow. Even reading about the psychology of partner abuse left me with a trapped, claustrophobic feeling, an empathic gut punch of fear with a creepy residue that stayed for a while.
But it also meant meeting people who work tirelessly to fight that darkness as their regular full-time job, which is incredibly inspiring. And there's a lot of interesting, complicated work going on, across the country, to see what can be done about this particular crime, which can lurk for so long and then explode into so many lives at once.
So I was both thrilled and preemptively nauseated when I opened up the New Yorker this week to find this piece, by Rachel Louise Snyder, about new ways people are trying to predict when domestic violence situations will turn fatal, and learn how to better work with survivors to keep them alive. (A big part of it is making sure solutions don't inadvertently punish the victim.)
If you don't have a New Yorker subscription, there's nothing I can do for you. But if you do, this is an incredibly worthwhile read. It starts like this:
Dorothy Giunta-Cotter knew that someday her husband, William, would kill her. They met in 1982, when he was twenty and she was fifteen: a girl with brown eyes and cascading dark hair. Over the course of twenty years, he had kidnapped her, beaten her, and strangled her with a telephone cord. When she was pregnant with their second child, he pushed her down the stairs. After visits to the emergency room, he withheld her pain medicine and, at one point, forbade her to wear a neck brace.
Dorothy and William had two daughters, Kaitlyn and Kristen. Once, in a rage, William sat on Kristen’s chest until she couldn’t breathe; she was eleven. Another time, angered by what she was wearing, he hit her repeatedly in the head. That day, Dorothy took Kristen from their home, in Amesbury, Massachusetts, and drove to a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Maine. (Kaitlyn, who was seventeen, stayed behind in order to graduate from high school on schedule.) Dorothy feared that William knew the local network of domestic-violence shelters; in Maine, she felt, she would be safe.
There she filed a restraining order, telling the judge that her husband would kill her when he found her. But the judge denied the order, citing a lack of jurisdiction. So Dorothy returned with Kristen to Massachusetts, where she met Kelly Dunne, who worked at the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, a local domestic-violence agency. The center helped Dorothy file a restraining order and found a room for her and her daughters in a longer-term shelter. But Dorothy refused. She told the center’s lawyer, “If I’m going to die, I want to do it in my own house.”