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"Seattle Officers Refuse Escort Down Bus Tunnel,
Girl Beaten as Security Guards Watch"

(published on officer.com 2-11-10)

SEATTLE --

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.

Exclusive: Victim of Teen Beating Says Security Failed 3 Times

Aiesha, 15, Asked for an Escort, Warned Guards and Cops About Attackers, Got Beating But No Help
By LEE FERRAN, SHARYN ALFONSI and EMILY FRIEDMAN
Feb. 15, 2010 -

The victim of a vicious teen beating said security ignored her before, during and after the attack at a Seattle bus stop that left her unconscious.

"I warned the guards about the situation," Aiesha, 15, told "Good Morning America" in an exclusive interview. "I still have yet to hear any of their voices. ... After the situation, they told me I had to clear the area because there are other riders who have to get on the buses."

In addition, before going into the bus tunnel she told two Seattle police officers twice that she was in danger, but they declined to help her.

At the bus stop, "Nobody even acknowledged that I was in their presence," she said.

In the surveillance video that caught the assault on tape, Aiesha is seen getting jumped from behind by another girl in front of a trio of uniformed guards.

Click here to watch the raw video of the attack.

As she fell to the curb of the Westlake Center transit terminal, Aiesha is straddled by one of her assailants and then surrounded by other teens who start to rob her of her belongings. One security guard can be seen standing directly over Aiesha as she is stomped and then kicked in the head by a teenage girl. After the beating, the attacker walked away.

"When it actually happened, it happened so quick," Aiesha said. "I can't really describe or explain or tell you what I remember. ... I didn't know how horrifying it looked. It made me sick to the stomach."

Aiesha said after the attack that no one offered to help her except for one woman who helped her to her feet. With the assailants still in the area, Aiesha said the officers still refused to call for help or to take her anywhere where she'd be safe.
Aiesha's mother, Letta, who appeared with her on "GMA," said she had to watch the video in separate segments, because she would become too emotional in extended viewings.

"I don't know if I was more horrified about the kicking or about the guard standing there," she said. "She still was passed out once the assailants left. Everybody just resumed ... walking over her."

The family's attorney, James Bible, said it is "certainly" considering further legal action both against the city and state.
"As a mother, I want to see justice served," Letta said.

According to King County Sheriff's Department spokesman John Urquhart, the security guards at the terminal did what the job required.

"They are to observe and report," Urquhart told "Good Morning America." "And that means be a good witness and call 911. And that's exactly what they did."

Seattle Authorities Respond to Criticism
In response to the beating at the Seattle public bus terminal, the King County Sheriff's Department said last week it had placed sheriff's deputies at each bus stop inside the terminal.

"There have always been deputies assigned to the tunnel, but not enough for each stop. Now we have at least one on all five platforms," Urquhart said Friday.

"I think there is a general feeling in Seattle that the bus tunnel isn't safe. That wasn't true before the beat down, and it isn't true now & but is important to reassure the public," Urquhart said.

Urquhart said last week his office had received calls from an outraged public demanding answers as to how this incident could have happened.

King County Metro Transit hired a private security company, and the company said it had standing orders to only "observe and report."

"They have policies and mission and rules about what they can and can't do," Urquhart said.

The security system is under review, and the additional force from the Sheriff's Department is only an interim solution. The private security guards will still remain in the tunnel, Urquhart said.

This is not an unusual case, according to security experts from around the county. Most private security guards under contract by cities, shopping malls and businesses work under strict rules to retreat, not to jump in, if something goes wrong.
Yet the video also shows other people standing on the platform who did not break up the teenage fight.
Urquhart said it is easy to "Monday morning quarterback" and say that you would have stopped the attack.
"Often in these situations people are just so stunned & they don't intervene," Urquhart said.

Some witnesses said they did not do anything because they mistakenly believed that the men with "Security" written across their backs would actually provide some.

"I went to the security and told them that these kids were trying to jump me," Aiesha said in her statement to investigators that ABC News obtained. "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," she said.

Victim: Officers Ignored Warnings
The altercation first began at approximately 7:15 p.m. on Jan. 28, inside a Macy's and then later in a Nordstrom's department store in the Westlake Center, a mall in downtown Seattle.

When an 18-year-old male member of the group got "in the face" of the 15-year-old victim and threatened to kill her, police asked the group to leave the store.

Those same officers, Aiesha said, refused to escort her to the bus terminal even though she said she'd told them she feared she was about to be attacked.

"I asked them to take me to the tunnel, and they said they couldn't because they didn't have time for kids who started trouble," she told investigators. "The same group that wanted to fight me came up to me right in front of the officers. The officers were just standing there looking around."

Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, a Seattle police spokesman, told ABC News last week that the officers could only do so much before a crime was actually committed, and had told the victim and her friend to go home and get away from the assailants at least two times before the attack occurred.

"The officers were aware of several verbal disturbances in the area, some of them that included this victim and the would-be assailants," said Whitcomb. "The officers separated the groups and instructed all parties to leave the area, especially making note to the victim that it would be wise to catch a bus and go home so she'd be free from any harassment."
"Ultimately, had the officers known what the outcome would be, they would have absolutely just called a cab for the victim," he said. "But when no crime has occurred, officers' abilities to take any further action are severely curtailed."

During the assault, some of the assailants stole the victim's purse, book bag, cell phone and iPod, according to police.
Thursday the 15-year-old girl who is accused of the assault pleaded not guilty to attacking and robbing the victim. If she's convicted, she faces up to 2½ years in juvenile detention, according to ABC News' Seattle affiliate KOMO-TV.

Three others who have been arrested have also been charged with first-degree robbery and will be tried as adults in King County Superior Court later this month.

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