We haven’t been talking much about violent demonstrations or anti-police sentiment out of Seattle recently. This could be seen as a positive development, a sign we’ve just gotten tired of it all, or a bit of both.
That last answer seems to be the most likely one.
No, we’re not seeing the kind of actions in the Pacific Northwest metropolis that we were seeing during the CHAZ/CHOP days or even in the months that followed. To the extent that they still exist, there’s a presidential race that has consumed the better part of two years of this nation’s political life and is now in its final two weeks — and that many predict could touch off another wave of violence.
The ability of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and those around her in city government to countenance property damage and potential danger to her citizens, while still a source of minor amazement to many of us, isn’t exactly the story it used to be.
On the other hand, there’s still plenty being countenanced — both in Seattle and in the immediate vicinity — should you wish to look for it:
Seattle BLM barging into a Trader Joe’s again. TK trying to get into confrontations with people trying to shop inside. How iconic. Totally about justice and not harassment. #Seattleprotests pic.twitter.com/u5TA3Xf6QS
— Kitty Shackleford (@KittyLists) October 23, 2020
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) October 25, 2020
And then there are the less-coordinated expressions of vitriol and intimidation against institutions perceived to be of the establishment, such as the medieval-style attack carried out Thursday.
It’s unclear what the man’s motive was or how in compos mentis he may have been. That said, his target wasn’t just gentrifiers or Trader Joe’s but Seattle police. He also wasn’t just using chants of “Fire, fire, gentrifier” but actual fire. And whether he was motivated by anti-police antipathy — there’s evidence he might not have been, in fact — there’s still a connection here to the general anti-police sentiment of the Seattle protests.
According to KCPQ-TV, 37-year-old Brian Joseph Leil has been charged with two counts of first and second-degree assault after allegedly charging a police cruiser with a torch. He’s being held in lieu of $500,000 bond.
The Seattle Times reported the incident began when police responded to a call of a man swinging a hammer at another man’s head at Denny Park. Onlookers were able to intervene and grab the hammer before any injury occurred.
Video released by the police department begins with the cruiser as the officer inside comes across the suspect, with one of the officers describing the torch being wielded by the man as being “very much on fire.”
Upon being told to stop, the suspect told the officer, “F— you!” and continued walking away.
When police pursued him and told him to stop again, he turned around and launched the burning spear of lumber into the cruiser through the driver’s side door.
WARNING: The following video contains graphic language and images that some viewers will find offensive or disturbing.
Detectives with the Force Investigations Team have released body-worn, dashcam, and surveillance video from the ongoing investigation into the Thursday’s officer-involved shooting in South Lake Union.
Viewer discretion is advised.https://t.co/nXo7lpFUe2 pic.twitter.com/pgzb8uqgWm
— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) October 16, 2020
The officer fired shots but didn’t hit the man; he was eventually able to escape through the passenger’s side door of the police cruiser. He was transported to Harborview Medical Center, where he was treated for burns, the Times reported.
Aerial photo of the police vehicle that was set on fire. One suspect reported to be in custody; unknown status of the officers that were inside the vehicle. Will update once it’s reported & confirmed. #SeattlePD #Seattle https://t.co/ZgIb54HYMA pic.twitter.com/HE5YGjrYjN
— Shane B. Murphy (@shanermurph) October 15, 2020
Leil was taken into custody by officers after being chased into a nearby parking garage and subdued with a stun gun.
“The defendant confessed to all of this in an audio recorded statement, and stated that after failing in his second attack on the civilian … his intention was then to commit a crime so serious that police killed him,” a statement from Seattle Police read.
According to the Seattle Times, Leil said he intended to use the burning spear against the target of the first attack, who he knew.
Now, Leil likely isn’t the type to be marching into Trader Joe’s or chanting “Fire, fire, gentrifier.” However, this is what Seattle’s police officers have to deal with in a city where anti-cop activists want their budget slashed and their role reduced — if not, in some extreme cases, eliminated entirely.
Do we want to have cases like this one dealt with by mental health workers instead of police officers?
Do we want to give the police fewer resources, particularly in a city that’s seen mass demonstrations, many of them extremely violent, and where resources have been stretched already?
And, perhaps most importantly, do we want to continue to foment anti-police sentiment?
This is what our law enforcement has to deal with on a daily basis. Reducing their mechanisms to deal with situations like this doesn’t make any of us safer.
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