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Dear Mayor: An eyewitness critique of Pioneer Square's homeless beating

Steve Banfield watched as two Seattle firefighters beat a pair of homeless men sleeping in Pioneer Square. His correspondence with Mayor Ed Murray on the subject.

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.

Image

Image

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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Comments:

Posted Mon, Mar 24, 4:22 a.m. Inappropriate

In addition to more Police in Pioneer Square, perhaps an examination of the policy that allows the homeless the pass out/sleep/camp on the streets is in order as well.

There is no excuse for the aggressive behavior of the individuals involved here. I assume that since these are fire fighters that Pete Holmes will make sure that there will be no favoritism in the prosecution of their crimes.

Unfortunately for Murray, the pattern of talking about action and not actually taking any action is a long standing tradition in Seattle.

Cameron

Posted Mon, Mar 24, 8:22 a.m. Inappropriate

Thank you Mr. Banfield for reaching out to city officials with your first-hand account and emphasizing how imperative it is to provide better police presence in the area, especially when large, inebriated crowds are present.

I especially enjoyed hearing how a seemingly able-bodied firefighter who is on disability calls others “moochers” and “living off my tax dollars.”

jeffro

Posted Mon, Mar 24, 8:23 a.m. Inappropriate

I'm sorry, but I cannot find any sentence in the text of this letter stating that these attackers were firefighters. It's hard to imagine the headline and Ed Murray's response being so off the mark, but it sounds like these were just three angry folks walking by the Firefighters' Memorial. Or is the Firehouse Bar known for serving SFD officers?

andro517

Posted Mon, Mar 24, 12:07 p.m. Inappropriate

Yes, this is sloppy journalism. Banfield's letter makes no attempt to identify the assailants, but obviously other sources have linked them to the Fire Department. Crosscut should have filled in the context that Banfield missed. Without it Murray's letter makes no sense. And if the assailants were indeed City firefighters, the cure obviously includes more than just more cops in Pioneer Square.

woofer

Posted Mon, Mar 24, 1:24 p.m. Inappropriate

"sloppy journalism" = Crosscut's normal standards.

ACJ

Posted Mon, Mar 24, 5:36 p.m. Inappropriate

Other news accounts identified the men as off duty firefighters, and the Fire Chief apologized stating that this type of behavior is not condoned in any way by the Seattle Fire Department. The lovely bride is employed at Amazon, also per other news accounts.

Posted Mon, Mar 24, 8:23 a.m. Inappropriate

@Cameron..."In addition to more Police in Pioneer Square, perhaps an examination of the policy that allows the homeless the pass out/sleep/camp on the streets is in order as well."

What part of 'homeless' don't you grasp? They are sleeping on the street because they have no home. There are few, if any, shelter beds available, because no one wants to pay taxes. Jobs are non-existent. You know the government justed enables these folks by giving them beds and food, right? Why pay taxes?

elbowman

Posted Mon, Mar 24, 12:05 p.m. Inappropriate

"They are sleeping on the street because they have no home"

Or because they chose to drink and do drugs.

Simon

Posted Mon, Mar 24, 5:43 p.m. Inappropriate

Or because they have mental health issues.

No matter why the homeless sleep on the street is no excuse for middle class middle aged cretins to beat on them.

Posted Mon, Mar 24, 8:33 a.m. Inappropriate

I currently work in Pioneer Square, and I have watched the fortunes of this valuable historic neighborhood ebb and flow since 1967. I would only add that in order to make a real difference, a police presence (preferably "beat cops") is required 24/7, not just after sporting events.

AN

Posted Mon, Mar 24, 11:34 a.m. Inappropriate

What I grasp, elbowman is that the City of Seattle tolerates homeless folks sleeping, passing out and peeing and taking dumps in Pioneer Square and public parks throughout the City. I also grasp that the tax dollars we are paying to address the issue is obviously being misallocated. How is the Ten Year Plan to end homelessness working out for you elbowman?

Cameron

Posted Mon, Mar 24, 12:07 p.m. Inappropriate

" Jobs are non-existent."

No doubt you support raising the minimum wage to make hobos more employable?

Simon

Posted Mon, Mar 24, 5:11 p.m. Inappropriate

"Seattle firefighters beat Pioneer Square's homeless"

No sir, you saw one off duty fireman beat one homeless. The only reason this is news is because for the vast majority of cases of attacks on the homeless it's other homeless or drug dealers.

Simon

Posted Mon, Mar 24, 5:33 p.m. Inappropriate

There were 2 firefighters, and one brought his wife, a well employed gal who work/ed at Amazon, to help kick the homeless man.

Posted Fri, Jun 13, 2:22 p.m. Inappropriate

Two off-duty city employees and a girlfriend.

ltfd

Posted Tue, Mar 25, 3:15 p.m. Inappropriate

After many decades of being a visitor to Pioneer Square to bar hop or visit galleries, I stopped ever going to that area after dark or in the hours after any sporting event about 10 years ago. It is not, and never was, the homeless folks I am afraid of. It's the drunks and partiers occupying the place.

Posted Tue, Mar 25, 11:39 p.m. Inappropriate

And about 15 years ago, the drunks started carrying guns, and using them in the streets after they got pushed out of the bars. The homeless and panhandlers were always scary, but never seemed as violent as the club drunk gangsters who took over.

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