Residents incensed after man destroys Seattle park with stolen excavator

People living near Dr. Jose Rizal Park in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood are upset after part of their beloved park was ripped up with a stolen excavator. 

"I just happen to come across him as I was coming home," said park steward and volunteer Genevieve Courtney. "He was driving on the sidewalk."

Courtney told FOX 13 News she witnessed the ordeal and called 911. She said it happened around 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

"He was driving a little crazy with this heavy piece of machinery," she said.

Witnesses said the man was driving the stolen excavator recklessly and damaging the city park.

"I’ve spent hundreds of hours volunteering here," she said. "It’s upsetting to see all the destruction."

Courtney said she called 911 about six times before Seattle Police arrived.

"I didn’t feel like they were taking me seriously," she said. "They were like, ‘Does he have a weapon?’ I am like, ‘Yes, he has a backhoe. That’s a weapon.’"

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(File / FOX 13)

Officers arrived an hour later.

Video shared with FOX 13 News from We Heart Seattle shows police escorting the man up the ditch.

"He was compliant," said We Heart Seattle’s Andrea Suarez. "But he did tell police he had permission to be here and set up camp."

The organization told FOX 13 they’ve seen the man around the park before.

"People have called police on him previously," said Suarez. "This isn’t the first piece of equipment we found in the area. He was also putting pallets in the park earlier."

Residents said the entire situation is frustrating.

"He’s undone hundreds of hours of volunteer work," said park steward Craig Thompson. "What we have seen today is one person who decided to undo all of that work for the sake of whatever reason he had in his irrational mind."

During a cleanup of the man’s encampment Sunday, volunteers say they found drugs, including methamphetamine.

We Heart Seattle said this should be a wakeup call for city leaders.

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"For somebody to have the nerve to take a piece of equipment of this value and destroy our urban forest, makes you question everything," said Suarez. "Why are we here in the first place? Why has Seattle become a no-rules playground?"

It’s still unclear where the man got the stolen excavator from. It’s believed it was talked from a nearby construction site.

"It did damage into the park," said one volunteer. "It would do damage on the way out."