One week ago, a homeless man attempted to rape a female employee inside the bathroom of the King County courthouse. Fortunately, a law enforcement officer was walking by and heard the woman’s screams. He was able to pull the attacker off of the victim. The attacker turned out to be a registers sex offender who’d been released from prison less than a week earlier after serving a 21-month sentence for similar sex crimes.
This comes after a murder and an overdose in the same park just a few weeks earlier. Those incidents prompted a group of 33 judges to write a letter begging the city to consider clearing the homeless encampment in the park for the safety of employees and the people who come to the courthouse for for trials.
That letter seemed to have been politely ignored prior to last week. But the attempted rape was the last straw for the King County Sheriff who has an office in the building. She announced yesterday that courthouse employees should continue to work from home rather than try to return to their offices.
Citing the unsafe environment around the courthouse, King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht this week told staff that everyone in nonpublic facing jobs would be returning to remote work immediately.
“The safety and security of our employees is my top priority,” she wrote in the Aug. 2 letter. “Effectively immediately, due to the unsafe environment around the courthouse, administration, parking garage and corrections facilities, and concerns from labor unions, we are returning to 100% remote telework for professional staff members who do not routinely interact with the public.”
The announcement effectively pauses the return of about 60 employees who had already been working remotely, said Sgt. Tim Meyer, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office.
Seattle’s Fox affiliate Q13 interviewed Judge Mafe Rajul about the safety of the courthouse and here’s how she described it: “It is getting ridiculous. I grew up in Colombia and I did not experience in Bogota in the 80’s what I’m experiencing now in Seattle.” She added, “I was shocked when I saw that letter because this is law enforcement, it’s the King County Sheriff’s Office. Law enforcement telling employees it’s too unsafe and dangerous for you to come here.”
You would think that the mayhem outside the courthouse would be enough for the City Council to get involved but Judge Rajul says they don’t care about safety only about not protecting the homeless from sweeps. As if to emphasize her point, a homeless man came up and threw something at the Q13 reporter.
“Along 4th Ave. in broad daylight, I was interviewing a judge about safety concerns when some guy inches away threw an object at me very hard. Several people witnessed the incident. Not to mention, the man had to walk by two law enforcement officers before he chose to chuck the object at me. It is unclear if the officers saw the entire ordeal,” Hana shared.
The object turned out to be a piece of cauliflower. The reporter said it hit her back hard enough that it hurt. Obviously if the object had been a rock the situation could have been much more serious. But it’s all par for the course outside the King County courthouse. Here’s the full report from Q13.