EXCLUSIVE: Suspects in assaults on Seattle firefighters won't be charged

"In some cases the defendant was not competent and was released after 14 days if couldn’t get treatment, in some cases the firefighter did not press charges, and some cases did not have the information that is needed such as name or date of birth."

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
As assaults on Seattle firefighters continue, it has been revealed that many of the suspects have not been charged or have been released from custody.

According to minutes obtained by The Post Millennial from a Sept. 29, 2022 meeting of the Seattle Fire Department’s Labor/Management Joint Safety Committee, Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins while giving a presentation on what has been termed Assault & Threatening Behavior (ATB) said, "Chief Hastings meets weekly with SPD counterpart Assistant Chief Mahaffey and they discuss ATB. Chief Scoggins has sent information about firefighter assaults that we have been tracking since 2015 to the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.”

According to Scoggins, Natalie Walton-Anderson, Criminal Division Chief at Seattle City Attorney's Office, "has researched this information and she attended the last JLMC meeting. Natalie Walton-Anderson found that in some cases the defendant was not competent and was released after 14 days if couldn’t get treatment, in some cases the firefighter did not press charges, and some cases did not have the information that is needed such as name or date of birth."

Scoggins noted that "Some cases were prosecuted" and "Court cases scheduled for next week were also reviewed."

Scoggins added that he will continue "to have quarterly meetings with the team from the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, and SFD (Seattle Fire Department) will soon have a liaison with the Attorney’s Office."

Additionally, "SPD (Seattle Police Department) will have training on report writing, and SFD will have training on narrative that is needed to support prosecution."

Chief Scoggins said that he reviews all firefighter assault reports and talks to Seattle Police Chief Diaz "consistently about reports."

"Looking at trends - some assaults happen when overdose or seizure patients are revived," Scoggins continued. "Local 27 recommends educating new police officers so that they know what we need on scene. Also, recommend building relationship with officers – invite them to station for coffee, dinner."

According to the minutes, "ATB has 103 reports. Half don’t rise to level of police involvement. Spectrum: felony, misdemeanor, and behavior that doesn’t rise to legal threshold. Lower-level spectrum can rise to higher level so evaluate those incidents also."

The Post Millennial previously revealed in August that over 40 attacks and assaults on Seattle Fire Fighters have been reported since April 2022 and as a result, their union was taking their concerns directly to city officials about "the impact that this hostility is having on firefighter safety and the critical services" they provide.

According to the minutes from the September meeting, going forward firefighters are encouraged to "report all levels" of attacks and were reminded that if SPD was on scene and there is a case number "then get the case number from SPD for report and follow up. Members can provide feedback about the online ATB report process for improving the ATB report form."

"Natalie Walton-Anderson asked that we state the impact of behavior – surprised, shocked, hurt, effect efficiency, etc. – as this is important for the legal process."

According to a 2019 interview posted on the local ADL website, Walton-Anderson is a member of the board and  "on the Project Homelessness Board with the Seattle Times Advisory Committee. As an attorney, I bring a criminal justice perspective to the homelessness crisis in Seattle."

Under "new business" the committee discussed "Dangerous Person Terminology"

According to the minutes, the department is "developing specific terminology to alert people to dangerous person at an incident. There was an incident with Ladder 5 where patient was potentially armed and the patient heard the warning over the radio."

The question was then asked, "How can we warn company without alerting patient?"

"We can use a code, language we already have," was the given solution according to the document. "Logistics Committee reviewed this suggestion. We have terminology that is plain language, such as abandon/withdraw from the building. This language is universal knowledge that all will know and follow. We could say the scene is not secure."

It was also suggested that "We could give specific information over the phone, not the radio. Use terminology we have on radio."

According to a July letter written by Kenny Stuart, President of the Seattle Fire Fighters Union Local 27 to the Seattle City Council, "Seattle Fire Fighters are increasingly the victims of violent and dangerous interactions with the public."

"Last Monday, July 18th, a Seattle Fire Fighter working on SFD Engine 10 responding to an [homeless] encampment fire at 10 Avenue S. and Dearborn St. was hit by a large rock thrown by an assailant while extinguishing the fire. This fire fighter will recover from this injury, but it is one more unsettling near-miss in [an] all too dangerous environment."

In another incident on June 3rd during an Aid Response, "Engine 30 experienced their patient pulling a knife on them. The patient stated that they were going to kill the firefighters and then began chasing them with the knife. They retreated to the engine and the person climbed on top of the engine before eventually being detained."

As has become common in Seattle, the dangerous offender was released. According to Stuart, "Unfortunately, this attacker is now back on the streets around Pioneer Square and has already approached members of this crew and other Seattle Fire Fighters working in the area."

Stuart said in the letter that "More than 40 attacks and assaults on Seattle Fire Fighters have been reported just since April 2022. Due to underreporting, the actual number of assaults is likely much higher, because the men and women of our fire department are accustomed to facing and mitigating harmful and deadly hazards."

"We battle structure fires, vehicle fires, explosions, electrical hazards, chemical hazards, structural collapse, and infectious diseases, but we have been slow to recognize that intentional physical violence against firefighters is unacceptable. It is not the same as a burning building or a car wreck. Seattle Fire Fighters are not trained or empowered to mitigate violent individuals, and it is not conducive to our mission."

Stuart then called on city officials to address the violence. "This hazard, this violence, must be proactively mitigated through policies and actions of our elected officials, law enforcement, and leaders within the SFD."

Complicating matters is that the Seattle City Council repeatedly defunded the already short-staffed Seattle Police Department following the riots that rocked the city in the wake of George Floyd's death in May of 2020. A spike in shootings and other violent crimes followed.

The council also cut funding for another 80 SPD positions last week for the 2023 budget.

In addition to the violence Seattle firefighters face, they are also dangerously short-staffed. The SFD staffing crisis, which also followed vaccine mandates, is so dire that one whistleblower said, "someone is going to get killed," and is worried the city will not take action to solve the problem, even if the victim is a Seattle firefighter.

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