KIRO 7’s Gary Horcher weighs in on downtown Seattle Target rampage
It is the video that is shocking the Pacific Northwest; a man goes on a stealing rampage through the downtown Seattle Target, stuffing a stolen duffel bag with expensive goods, threatening and head-butting employees, sending a heavy display case crashing down an escalator as shoppers run to get out of the way, vandalizing the store, and, eventually, walking right past the Target loss prevention manager out onto the street.
During the entire 15-minute episode, captured by surveillance on Aug. 17 at the Target on Second Avenue, employees and shoppers leave the thief alone, and police do not show up to the scene.
“Different sources that I’ve talked to say that he went off on a tirade — he started confronting a lot of employees, threatening them … he head-butted one of the sales associates, who appeared to be a woman,” said KIRO 7’s Gary Horcher, who first reported on the story, to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “So then, what they’re told to do is back off.”
The thief, identified by detectives as 41-year-old Jason Lewis, then can allegedly be seen using a display as a bludgeon to crack open an Apple display case full of iPads and Apple watches. When that does not work, he pushes the display case — which Horcher said, according to court documents, was too heavy to lift — down an escalator, sending people near the bottom running in fear for their lives.
Horcher said that if anyone had been further up on the escalator and could not have run out of the way in time, they likely would have been killed.
“When you see how quickly this thing comes down, it would have wiped out anyone who was below him,” Horcher said.
After a brief verbal confrontation with the store’s loss prevention manager, Lewis walks out the door. Horcher said that the loss prevention manager was instructed to remain hands-off, as per Target’s policy is that employees should back off rather than risk personal harm if someone conducts a rampage like this.
“Believe me, everyone in there was calling 911,” Horcher said.
As for Dori’s question of why no shoppers attempted to tackle Lewis, Horcher said that they were likely feared that this man — who had proven himself capable of committing a whole host of crimes in just those 15 minutes — could be armed.
“If it’s somebody who might be armed, there’s no question, you and I are probably both going to back away and hope cops show up,” he said. “That’s exactly what they did.”
Police eventually caught up with Lewis — but only after two men tackled him when they found him prowling cars in West Seattle. The judge let Lewis out of jail less than 24 hours later, and he went back to the downtown Seattle Target twice in the following few days before finally being arrested again.
Horcher said that Lewis came to Seattle from Texas about four years ago; his long rap sheet includes threat of terrorism, assault with a deadly weapon, and obstruction of justice.
“What we’re trying to follow up on is how the guy got here and why he was here,” Horcher said. “He doesn’t seem to have any connections.”
It appears from police documents that Lewis may be homeless, Horcher said. Dori was not surprised to hear this.
“He came here for the reason druggies from all around the country are coming here,” Dori said. “It’s because we are the path of least resistance, we’re the place where we’re thinking about giving them a place to shoot up, where city council members are thinking about the taxpayers buying the heroin for them, and where they can commit the most heinous of crimes and be released by a judge 19 hours later.”
Lewis also allegedly went into Belltown Storage and threatened to kill the manager and assistant manager. Horcher said that according to the managers, Lewis told them to tell him the truth. When they said they didn’t know what the truth was, Lewis responded that he was the truth.
“Clearly you’re dealing with somebody who’s got severe mental illness, in addition to other problems,” Horcher said.