3 Seattle bus tunnel guards watch brutal beating
SEATTLE (AP) – A 15-year-old girl who was badly beaten and robbed in a Seattle bus tunnel as three unarmed security guards looked on told investigators that she thought the men would protect her.
The statements were revealed in court papers filed Wednesday against the teen girl accused of attacking her and the three young men accused of stealing her purse, phone and iPod. The four were all charged with first-degree robbery.
The victim told a King County sheriff’s detective that the group followed her from a nearby department store into the bus tunnel at Westlake Station on Jan. 28, and she deliberately stood next to the three guards.
The guards didn’t intervene, though. They have standing orders to “observe and report,” so they called police but did nothing else as another 15-year-old girl punched and repeatedly kicked the victim in the head.
Government officials as well as executives at Olympic Security Services Inc., which employs the guards, are reviewing that protocol after the guards’ response was caught on surveillance video.
“I went to the security and told them that these kids were trying to jump me,” the girl said. “I know that I am about to get jumped and I am hanging around the guards to try and get protection. … I thought the security guards would defend me.”
The girl, who is black, also told the detective that the altercation began at a nearby department store, where some in the group made threatening comments that she had “nice things” and that she acts “white.”
Two Seattle police officers noticed the escalating situation and kicked the group out of the Macy’s, then brought the girl and her friend to another exit, the victim said. She reported that she asked the officers for an escort to the bus tunnel, just below the department store, but the officers refused.
“Had these officers known what was to transpire, they probably would have paid for a cab for this victim to be taken safely to her home, but they didn’t know. They broke up a couple of disturbances and provided the victim an opportunity to leave the area via bus,” said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, a Seattle police spokesman.
One of the defendants, Dominique Whitaker, told detectives that earlier in the evening the victim had pepper-sprayed another person in the group.
The victim, who reported that she lost consciousness during the attack, was not hospitalized. She said she has a potentially fatal heart condition, and tried to protect her chest as she was being kicked.
King County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Urquhart said the guards were right to follow their training.
“If you’re a bank teller and you do something other than give them the money, you’re going to get fired,” Urquhart said. “We don’t expect civilians to take police action. In this case, it was a violent fight, and they were outnumbered by this pack of people 3-to-1.”
Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond and other King County officials were less forgiving.
“We are very disappointed in what people see in that video,” Desmond said. “It was absolutely unacceptable. I know the Olympic Security folks were also disappointed in the response, but again, the employees were following the letter of the agreement.”
Metro Transit contracts with the King County Sheriff’s Office for 68 police officers, and supplements that force with civilian guards provided by Olympic Security Services Inc. of Tukwila, Wash. All three of the guards involved are Olympic employees.
The guards’ duties include helping customers and reporting suspicious objects, disruptive behavior and equipment problems.
Olympic Security President Mark Vinson did not immediately return calls seeking comment, but Desmond said the company is quickly working up a proposed contract revision, which could include additional training and new guidelines on how and when guards should intervene.
Other options include hiring armed guards.
Unarmed guards could put themselves and others at risk if they intervene in certain situations. But this incident was largely a fight between two teenage girls, and there does not appear to be any indication that the larger group would have become involved if the guards broke it up, Desmond said.
“If I was there on the platform I don’t know that I would have stood there,” he said. “It’s their job to be down there. The people at Olympic Security had the same human response: ‘Why didn’t we step in to protect the girl on the ground?”‘
The girl charged with being the primary attacker faces up to 2 1/2 years in juvenile detention if convicted. Whitaker, 18, and Latroy D. Hayman, 20, each face a sentence of 31 to 41 months in prison if convicted, and the third adult defendant, Tyrone J. Watson, 18, faces a sentence of 36 to 48 months in prison.
It was not immediately clear if any had obtained lawyers.