A homeless man with multiple priors, who allegedly kicked a 67-year-old man’s dog to death during an attempted robbery in a Seattle park, was released from jail on his own recognizance the very next day.
According to court documents, Saturday afternoon John Hickey was walking his 14-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Alice, through Courthouse Park. The park is home to a notorious homeless encampment, ripe with crime, next to the King County Courthouse just a few blocks away from Seattle City Hall.
Staff at the courthouse have been quitting, blaming a "steady flow of crime and intimidation" from the residents of the encampment. Susan Mahoney, the presiding judge for King County District Court told KOMO News, "The behavior that we see on the streets toward people is more random, it’s completely unprovoked, it’s very aggressive, more frequent, people follow you, spit, we’ve had significant assaults. I’ve walked in and out of this building for 30 years and it’s definitely different than it's ever been before."
A survey conducted by the King County Prosecutor’s office of its employees revealed that of the 220 people that took the survey, 160 offered comments about courthouse safety and were afraid to go to the courthouse to do their jobs.
The suspect identified as Courtney J Williams, 29, allegedly demanded that Hickey give him his jacket, and according to documents said, "I'll knock your head off if you don't give me that jacket," then assumed a fighting stance like a boxer.
Hickey, who had been assaulted before and had a previous leg injury, pepper-sprayed the suspect in self-defense. According to the documents, the suspect backed away and while the victim attempted to flee as fast as his injured leg could carry him, but "the suspect ran up behind him and kicked his dog so hard she flew into the air." The dog landed head-first on the concrete walkway.
Hickey told Q13 Fox, "I heard pounding of feet and I turned around and he was running full speed at us and I didn't have time to really do anything. I had her on the leash and he came running towards her, knocked me down and he kicked her so hard that she went up in the air and started hemorrhaging." The victim sustained minor injuries after the suspect pushed him to the ground. When he got up to check on his dog, he saw she was dead.
"She thought everybody liked her and she was just proud of that. And the most horrible thing, when she died she gave me a look...just was like she was confused that anyone would do something like that to her," Hickey told Q13 Fox.
The suspect fled, but police identified him from the victim’s statement, emergency personnel and previous incidents with law enforcement. Officers arrested Williams and booked him into jail on Sunday evening, less than a block from the park for animal cruelty and robbery.
"She got me through days when I literally don't think I would've gotten up in the morning. Except I knew she needed me and she knew that I needed her," a grieving Hickey told Q13 Fox.
Three years ago, Seattle Police began emphasis patrols in the area after a rash of assaults on people entering and departing the courthouse prompted county officials to demand more protection the courthouse happened three years ago. The courthouse is located across the street from the city’s largest overnight shelter the Downtown Emergency Services Center.
After the outbreak of the coronavirus, city officials allowed the tent city in the park. as well as many others all over the city, to remain. The encampments have since grown exponentially.
The King County Prosecutor's Office had asked Judge Marcus Naylor to hold Williams on $25,000 bail and argued that the attack was unprovoked and that the suspect is a danger to the community.
According to KIRO 7, Seattle police and the prosecutor told the judge that the suspect "is now a complete danger to the public and property. If he is released, he will more than likely to return to City Hall Park, where his assaultive/destructive/aggressive behavior will continue to increase and cause havoc to residents and visitors of the Seattle area."
Additionally, because the suspect is homeless, he has no known address, and if he is charged with felony animal cruelty, officers will have to find the suspect and re-arrest him.
Seattle police also advocated for Williams to remain in custody believing from his previous record that his dangerous behavior would continue. Williams has a record of assault and harassment.
But Judge Naylor instead reduced the animal cruelty charge sought by the prosecution from a felony to a gross misdemeanor and ordered Williams released from jail one day after his arrest. Last year, the Seattle City Council began working on legislation to dismiss misdemeanor crimes for offenders.
City and county officials have been under fire for years for not prosecuting crimes. In 2019 business groups in Seattle commissioned a report on 100 prolific offenders who were terrorizing downtown Seattle residents and businesses.
Hickey told Q13 Fox that Alice "would cuddle up and wrap her arms around my neck. She's all I had-- and I'm not complaining... that was all I had. I mean, she was all I needed."
The next hearing for Williams will be on Thursday in front of Judge Lisa Paglisotti, who is notorious for releasing dangerous suspects held on serious crimes on their own personal recognizance.
Though local prosecutors are known for being lax in the prosecution of perpetrators for crimes against humans, Casey McNerthney with the King County Prosecutor’s Office told KIRO 7, "You can count of the prosecutor’s office that every time someone is arrested for allegedly kicking a dog to death, we’ll be in court to ask that the person be held in jail."