People furious over downtown Seattle crime pack council meeting

SEATTLE - Seattle city leaders felt the heat on Tuesday as residents held their feet to the fire over downtown crime.

The recent shooting at 3rd Avenue and Pine Street that left one person dead and seven injured opened a floodgate of frustration at the City Council's safety committee meeting.

Dozens signed up to speak but the two minutes allotted to each resident, barely scratching the surface of people’s anger.

“I don’t want to live in a city surrounded by filth and criminals and drug addicts,” said one man.

Last week's shooting is just one of many incidents over the years driving downtown residents and business owners over the edge.

“I think the sense of urgency is the most important element today because we have heard this before,” said one downtown business owner.

“I used to tell my kids nothing good comes after midnight in downtown Seattle. Now it’s day and night,” Jennifer Aspelund said.

But even if you don’t work or live downtown, 42 metro routes carry about 180,000 passengers each week day through 3rd Avenue, not to mention the tourists who flock to the area.

“It’s criminal to let people wait for a bus on 3rd Avenue. That’s insane,” said one man.

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best showed up to the meeting to brief the council and validated concerns uttered by the public.

“I want you to know you are being heard and these issues are important to us,” Chief Best said.

Best addressed the crowd as well as council members present at the safety meeting. They included council members Lisa Herbold, Andrew Lewis, Tammy Morales and Alex Pederson.

“Across the city in 2019 we saw 3 percent decrease in violent crime, a 5 percent decrease in property crime and an overall 5 percent in major crime,” Best said.

When Best read off those statistics, it angered people in the crowd who say the lawlessness is getting worse.

They say random assaults, harassment, public defecation and open drug use and drug dealing are becoming an everyday occurrence downtown.

“People are leaving Seattle. We have data to show they are not renewing their leases. Their clients and customers don’t feel safe,” property manager Sabrina Villanueva said.

Villanueva told council members that one of her tenants, Steepologie Teas, was targeted last week. Villanueva shared surveillance video with Q13 News showing an employee being assaulted.

The store owner told Q13 News it all started when a woman speaking incoherently kept harassing customers. When the employee approached the woman to ask if she could help with something, the owner says the woman became belligerent, cursing at the employee.

When the employee asked her to leave the store, the woman is seen throwing punches at the employee. Several of those punches hit the victim, but the injuries were not serious enough for medical attention.

Villanueva says those incidents are becoming all too common downtown.

“They deal with this every single day. It’s getting worse, it’s not getting better,” Villanueva said.

Many say that’s because the city and King County's judicial system are not holding repeat offenders accountable. Concerned citizens say they want more jail time for violent offenders and more mental health and drug treatment for others.

“We don’t say 'no' to bad behavior,” said one man.

Q13 News looked further into the assault case after Villanueva brought it up to council. The woman who was arrested last Tuesday has not been charged with assault, despite surveillance video and the fact she was identified by people at Steepologie Teas.

The city attorney’s office told Q13 News there is insufficient evidence to charge her at this time. They are currently waiting for more information from Seattle Police.

Q13 News also followed up with police for clarification, but all the department would say regarding insufficient evidence was that the case was referred to mental health court. A spokesperson for City Attorney Pete Holmes said he would follow up on the case on Wednesday.

The two suspects who remain at large after last week's 3rd and Pine shooting, William Toliver and Marquise Tolbert, have more than 60 arrests combined.

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg has been unwilling to give interviews or answer questions on how his office handled the prior cases.

A third suspect, Jamel Jackson, has been arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree. He was injured in the shooting.

On Tuesday, Council Member Herbold named some of the efforts aimed at fighting crime. She also told the crowd that city council has approved $100 million over 4 years to address public safety.

She also tried to inform the crowd that a couple of the mass shooting suspects did not have any dealings with the city attorney’s office and that they were King County cases.

But Herbold's explanation angered many who say they are more excuses and not enough bold solutions.

The group Speak Out Seattle just started a petition to collect 100,000 signatures in hopes of demanding solutions to the repeat offender crisis.