Editor's Note: On March 16th, 2014, Hugh Steven Banfield wrote the following letter to Mayor Ed Murray and posted it on his blog. On Thursday, March 20th, he received a response, included here. Late last week, the mayor's office also directed the Seattle Fire Department and Seattle Police Department to respond directly to Banfield and others who expressed concerns.
Dear Mr. Mayor,
I’m writing this, which I’ll post online and will also send to your office, in response to an incident that occurred in Pioneer Square after the Sounders game on March 15th. As a result, three people were arrested, one person was stabbed and several injured in a brawl that could have been prevented. The policies of your administration continue to encourage an environment in Pioneer Square that allows this violence to continue.
While both KOMO and KIRO have published their versions of the incident, I will share mine so I can make clear to you and your administration that the lack of police presence in Pioneer Square before, during and for an extended period after sporting events is putting both residents and visitors at risk.
While walking my dogs after 5 PM yesterday I passed very close to the firefighter’s memorial in Occidental Park. As I approached, I saw three people (two men, one woman) yelling at a homeless man lying on the memorial. As I passed, he responded when one [sic] of the men started yelling, “What did you say?” as he then rared [sic] back to punch the homeless man several times in the head and face. When the man tried to roll away to escape the attack, the aggressor kicked him several times.
While the attack continued, I called 911, reporting that I had just seen a man attacked, giving descriptions of everyone involved and that, unless police arrived quickly, this could escalate further. While I was on the phone with 911, the second man of the original three got into a fight with another homeless man, taking the homeless man’s walking stick from him and beating him with it. The homeless rallied around to protect the victims and after a lot of yelling, shoving and some tense moments, the attackers left north through the square towards Washington.
By 5:17 p.m. I had given my information to the 911 dispatcher, encouraged them to come quickly and given them my phone number to follow up.
Then nothing happened.
I didn’t expect a rapid police response. I’ve called 911 before to report other fights on Occidental and never seen police arrive in a timely fashion. So again this time I waited. I followed the three people north through the square with the goal of capturing a license plate number if they were going to get into a car, but they (apparently) went into McCoy’s Firehouse Bar*.
A few minutes later, I saw them return to Occidental to yell at a different group of men, screaming about “moochers” and “living off my tax dollars.” After I saw them leave the area again and no police had arrived, I decided to continue my walk with my dogs south along Occidental. It was by now approximately 5:25 or 5:30.
Looping back for home a few minutes later I saw police cars moving west on Main and Washington. I approached because I wanted to be able to give the officers any assisting information I could after my 911 call. When I arrived I saw this scene.
These were taken at 5:40. It shows two homeless men being questioned on the curb, the stick from the earlier beating on the ground next to them, and the female and one of the male aggressors in the street. The man is bleeding from what were explained to me later were stab wounds from a third altercation between the aggressive visitors and the homeless. The man wrapped in the “white” blanket in the first photo is the original victim, who was beaten and stomped for sleeping on the monument.
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