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Police: Homeless man attacks Seattle tourist with rope

Belltown resident Melody Paxton has been filming homeless and drug activity in her neighborhood. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A homeless man living in a Seattle tent allegedly attacked and strangled a tourist visiting the Space Needle with his family earlier this month.

The tourist was visiting Seattle from Arizona with his family on June 2. On the way to the Space Needle, a homeless man from a nearby tent encampment allegedly began to harass the family. According to the police report, the homeless man punched one of the tourists from behind before trying to strangle him with a rope.

The tourist was able to escape. But the homeless man caught up with him, running at “full force,” and attacked him again, landing multiple punches on the tourist’s chin and mouth. An officer arrived on the scene and broke up the fight near the Wells Fargo parking lot on Third Avenue.

According to the report, the tourist “…had obvious injuries to his mouth and face where he was punched. His lip was bleeding but teeth were intact. [He] also had a rope burn on the right side of his neck and clavicle” that was “approximately 6 inches long.” The homeless man was arrested and booked for felony assault. He had a pocket knife on him at the time of the attack.

This is yet another example of a brutal incident between an innocent passerby and a homeless person as the city advocates for more homeless encampments without a clear security plan.

The tents in this area have been up for weeks, but have been listed as low priority for sweeps. The so-called “tent mansion” nearby has recently added a keg to their amenities. Nearby, in South Lake Union, Mayor Jenny Durkan is pushing for a Tiny House Village, despite safety concerns from their neighbors.

Attacking a tourist

The officer notes in her report that the area near the incident has about 15-20 tents and has become known for “very high drug use and criminal activity.”

As the officer states, the family of tourists parked their car near the tent encampment so they could visit the Space Needle. They noticed someone peek out of a tent next to their parked car. They felt uncomfortable with their parking spot and moved to a nearby Wells Fargo lot. But the homeless man from the tent approached them in the parking lot and asked them what their names were in a threatening manner.

The family attempted to walk away. That’s when the homeless man attacked one of them from behind. It happened very fast. The tourist told officers that a rope was used in the attack, but he wasn’t sure if it went completely around his neck or not. It did leave a rope burn. The police report states that the rope was “the kind that is used to strangle people.”

They got away and the homeless man returned to his tent. The tourist heard police sirens and thought the incident was over. It wasn’t. Police believe the homeless man threw the rope into the tent at this time, and retrieved a closed pocket knife.

The homeless man found the family again and continued the attack, punching the tourist on the right side of his head. They stumbled into traffic on Denny Way as the assault continued. That’s when an officer arrived to stop the attack.

The police report states that the homeless man said he believed the tourist was a 14-year-old boy who was having relations with a woman he plans to marry. They were doing it to make him jealous. That is why he attacked him.

City responds

Will Lemke, spokesperson for the city’s Navigation Team, sent the following statement regarding the attack:

“The Navigation Team uses public safety as a key factor to prioritize an encampment for removal. The Navigation Team is taking necessary steps to continue engaging people living unsheltered in this encampment while maintaining public safety.

“The team has been working to connect people living at this encampment to safer spaces for some time, specifically helping a couple living unsheltered and trying to reconnect them with out of state family. I cannot share more out of privacy concerns, but we continue intensive outreach.

“Unsanctioned homeless encampments present an array of dangerous situations for both occupants and the surrounding community. People experiencing mental health crisis and or chronic substance dependencies are much more likely to be living unsheltered, which is why the Navigation Team must be able to connect people to resources and move people off the streets and into safer places.”

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