You can get arrested in Seattle, you just can’t get charged for anything. Last Friday a deranged homeless man walked into a Target store in west Seattle and began live-tweeting what he described as an attempt to take hostages in the store. The man explained that he couldn’t afford a gun but he did have a knife.
His hostage taking mostly involved walking up to customers with a knife and telling them they were hostages. No one was hurt and police believe the goal of the entire effort was suicide by cop. After negotiations failed, SWAT was sent in and they tased the suspect and brought him out. In all, the store was locked down for nearly 7 hours, wasting a ton of police resources.
The man’s name hasn’t been released by the media yet because he still hasn’t been charged with anything. That seems to be the story of his life. Just eight days prior to the incident last Friday, he was arrested for assaulting a police officer. Despite a request that he be held by the prosecutor, a judge released him on his own recognizance.
And less than six months ago, he attempted a similar hostage taking at a different retail outlet [emphasis added]:
The suspect attempted the same type of hostage situation in 2021 at a Fred Meyer in Burien.
On Aug. 18, 2021, the suspect armed himself with a pair of scissors and said he was looking for the kitchen area of the store. Once he found the knives, he armed himself with one. According to a police document, he explained his “intention was to take hostages at the store.” He requested that SWAT and Crisis Negotiators respond to the scene.
“He claimed to have taken his mother hostage recently, but was now taking Fred Meyer hostage because he ‘could not get the help he needed.’”
As the store was being evacuated, the suspect negotiated with officers. Finally, he was taken into custody with no injuries and charged with felony harassment. But the prosecutor dismissed the charge and it appeared to have been downgraded to a misdemeanor, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.
He tried the same stunt at a different Target store in downtown Seattle back in January 2020. On top of these three events, the same man has attempted suicide-by-cop on at least 11 previous occasions.
Between July 2018 and January 2019, prosecutors say the suspect had at least 10 instances of suicide-by-cop. On Jan. 23, 2019, he was charged with assaulting five officers during an 11th suicide-by-cop attempt.
Prosecutors alleged the suspect “showed up to a police station with an airsoft gun that had been modified to look like an operable handgun and attempted to commit suicide by police through pointing the gun at five police officers while yelling and shaking.” Cops knew to expect him: The suspect called 911 prior to the incident to explain what he was attempting.
So far this disturbed person has mostly tried to harm himself, but it’s not hard to imagine him escalating the situation to the point he actually injures or kills someone, maybe a civilian or maybe a police officer. We’ve seen that happen before in Seattle with other deranged homeless offenders who have cycled through the system.
We saw it when a homeless repeat offender named Abdalla Jama was arrested and released after attacking a security guard on the grounds that the security guard had put his hands on Jama first. Literally hours after he was released on that charge, he went out and beat a 62-year-old homeless man so badly the man was put in the ICU where he later died.
We saw it also in the case of Travis Berge aka Travel Tron, a homeless meth addict who circulated through the Seattle justice system for years. After being arrested and released once again during the effort by police to clear out the CHAZ/CHOP, Travis beat his girlfriend Lisa Vach to death and then killed himself. Lisa’s friend said at the time it wasn’t just Travis who was to blame for her death.
Sirena Ross believes a lack of accountability put her friend in mortal danger.
“Whoever kept letting him out, whoever kept reducing the charges, whoever kept ignoring this problem, Seattle failed and if somebody from the prosecutor’s office doesn’t step up and say, ‘We failed, we’ll do better,’ this will happen again.”…
“I know there are other Travis Berges out there. I know there are other Lisas out there. I know that there are people with histories that are just being released again and again, and this needs to end,” said Ross.
That was 15 months ago but it seems like no one in Seattle is listening. Now this man who has threatened to take hostages three times might finally be charged and will hopefully do some time. Because one of these times, after he’s been arrested and released, someone is going to get killed. Only then will someone ask why this guy had been passed through the system for so many years as if he were harmless.