Seattle Metro Tunnel Beating

This entry was published at least two years ago (originally posted on February 11, 2010). Since that time the information may have become outdated or my beliefs may have changed (in general, assume a more open and liberal current viewpoint). A fuller disclaimer is available.

This is one of the most disturbing local stories I’ve seen in a long time. A 15-year old girl was targeted by a group of other teens at Westlake Center. She and her friend went down to the Metro Transit tunnel to try to get away from the group. Once on the tunnel platform, they approached the security guards to try to get some assistance or protection from the group that was following them.

The guards, however, did nothing — even when the group arrived and one of the teens was attacked, shoved off the platform (thankfully, no buses or trains were present), followed back onto the platform, knocked to the ground, and then repeatedly kicked in the head until she was left unconscious.

Here’s a local news report with security footage of the attack. This is not pleasant to watch.

There are so many things to be outraged at.

Apparently, the ‘security’ people are contract workers, authorized only to “observe and report” suspicious activity and attacks. This has been the standard party line from Olympic Security and from a number of other officials commenting on the incident, and their protestations of being “extremely disappointed” in the security guards just doesn’t compensate.

The girl approached the guards and requested assistance. Instead, they turned away from her. She tried to keep one of the guards between her and her attacker, and neither that guard nor either of his partners made any attempt to intervene or do anything except the contractually required radio call to the police. One guard actually walks away during the attack. Ten blows to the head and six kicks to the head later, they continue to watch as the attacker comes back for a final kick to the head.

There is no excuse, not even the “observe and report” language in the contract, that justifies the guards behavior in this instance.

They could have paid attention to the girl about to be attacked. They could have worked together to form a barrier between her and the group of teens. They could have surrounded her to keep her attacker away. They could have moved to block her attacker from coming back for that final kick. They could have made any number of non-aggressive attempts to intervene that would not have involved directly contacting any of the group of teens threatening the girl.

Futhermore, thanks to Washington’s “Good Samaritan” law, at the very least, they could have assisted her after the attack without fear of liability, instead of standing around her unconscious body. Even more importantly, according to this article, Washington has had a “Good Samaritan” law on the books since 2005 that “makes it a misdemeanor offense to fail to assist a person who has suffered substantial bodily harm, provided that the person could reasonably summon assistance without danger to himself or herself.” Unfortunately, I’m currently having trouble finding the exact language of the referenced statute.

Of course, that brings up a second point. The witness interviewed in the above video describes standing there, watching the attack, and wondering, “Why doesn’t anybody do something?” Well, lady? Why not? Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t anyone else do something? Why didn’t any of the other people on the platform do something? I’m not even talking about physically restraining the attacker or accosting any of the rest of the group, just get close, surround the victim, get some sort of barrier between her and her attacker.

Don’t wait for someone else to do something, because they’re all doing the same thing.

This whole thing is just disgusting.

Another troubling aspect to this that I’d thought a little about, but was brought up in a comment on the LiveJournal mirror of this post (which, unfortunately, appears to have been eaten when I updated this post with the news reports below):

A bigger problem, however, is that this incident has shown to everyone just how powerless the security guards are, so I would imagine that if people are inclined to commit violence against someone else at the bus stop, they know they an do it now without ANY fear of retribution.

Exactly. Given what we’ve seen, just what is the function of the “security” guards? And what’s to prevent more frequent and more severe attacks from happening, now that it’s been made abundantly clear just how little protection these guards actually provide?

More reports:

Tunnel assault on girl sparks security debate:

King County Metro Transit will change its security policy in the Downtown Transit Tunnel after a surveillance video showed a 15-year-old girl beaten in front of three security guards who didn’t intervene to help her, an agency official said Wednesday.

In the meantime, county officials have called for a full review of tunnel security practices.

Four charged in transit tunnel beating:

On Wednesday, prosecutors filed first-degree robbery charges in King County Superior Court against Latroy Demarcus Hayman, 20, Tyrone Jamez Watson, 18, and Dominique Lee Whitaker, 18. A 15-year-old girl was also charged in juvenile court.

Speaking with detectives, the girl said she’d expected the guards to come to her aid.

“I thought the security guards would defend me if (the 15-year-old) tried anything,” the girl said, according to court documents.

Following the attack, the girl said the same Seattle police officers who’d contacted her previously refused to take action.

Admittedly agitated, the girl said she tried to tell the officers she’d been assaulted, according to court documents. When they did not assist her, she called her mother.

Her mother arrived at the scene, the girl told detectives, and contacted the officers on her daughter’s behalf.

“They told my mom that they were tired of all these kids downtown causing trouble,” the girl told police.

“It seemed like (one) officer put us all in one category,” the girl continued. “We were fed up with Seattle police but we wanted to press charges. It didn’t seem like the officers were (ever) interested in hearing my side of what happened.”

7 thoughts on “Seattle Metro Tunnel Beating”

  1. I’m just as outraged as you are. However, it has been noted in some of the coverage this has received in the local news that “security guards” more often than not have no power at all and are basically there to just “observe and report” and are in fact instructed not to involve themselves in any incident. If you’ll notice in the video there are a good group of them. Just supposing if a guard or guards did get involved it’s just possible that they could be overpowered by the large group that decided to beat up on the girl. You’ll also notice that none of the public got involved in the melee that resulted from the teens beating up on the girl probably for the reason I just made for why the guards didn’t get involved.

    Kevin Desmond the GM of metro has said that they may do something like provide some authority that has power to do something. As it stands the guards have zero authority to do anything other than to look at the situation and make a report of what they see. That’s the reality. If you ignore your job rules you may lose your job unfortunately.

  2. Job description needs to be changed. Security needs to provide security to the area, meaning public safety. Perhaps we need police officers who are trained to man the area and the streets of downtown. It is useless to have people to watch and report. We don’t need tax payers to fund that.

  3. It’s very easy to write an article from behind a computer about what these guards and witnesses should have done in this situation to protect the young girl. The guards job description seems to be pretty clear. We all would like to think that we would have helped out the victims, but when we actually find ourselves in a situation like this, who knows what action we would take? By coming to their aid, we’d be putting ourselves in a potentially life threatening position. We have spouses, children an others who love us and depend on us. I’ve always taken the position to not judge in a situation like this because I’m not 100% sure what I would do in the same situation.

  4. That is probably because you are a coward Greg. I can’t imagine that even if my job would have restricted me from getting involved that I would be able to continue to allow the continued beating go on simply because I’m a human being. Maybe at first I would try to avoid getting involved, but at the very least I would try to pretend like I had some sort of power and tell the kids to move along while trying to stand in front of the girl. That being said, I don’t think I, as a human being could stand there and watch this girl get beat down and kicked in the head over and over and over. At what point do you realize there is another human being laying there on the ground getting beat to death?

  5. Joe, you talk big words and call me a name in the process, but you never know what you’ll do until you’re actually in the situation. You versus a group of 10 or more teens who clearly have no regard for authority? Unless you can tell me that you’ve protected somebody in a situation like this in the past, your words mean nothing.

  6. Greg, Joe —

    I’d greatly prefer it if this didn’t denigrate into name-calling.

    Personally, I can see both points of view. As made obvious by my original post, I’d like to think that were I one of the various bystanders, I’d have moved to intervene in some way. Would I have actually done so? I can’t honestly be entirely sure I would — and, in admitting that, I’m quite aware of my own (theoretical) hypocrisy. All that really changes, though, is that I’d then be including myself in the set of bystanders who really should have done something to help the girl. :)

  7. It’s obvious this isn’t just “a group of teens” when the men are legal adults and one is 20! Whatever 3 adult men are doing with a pair of 15-yr. old girls, it certainly can’t be legitimate. Sounds like King Metro has more problems than uncaring guards. When the police complain they are “tired of all these kids causing trouble”, can’t they see probable gang activity and recognize that MORE steps need to be taken to prevent it, not just ignore it and hope it goes away? Besides beefing up security, sounds like Seattle needs youth activity centers. I only hope big cities resist the urge to cut back police forces with all the budget crises. Youth reflect the stress of the jobless situation and I would expect things to worsen before getting better.

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