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Civil rights attorney: Kirkland incident likely racist, but question is proportionality

Byron Ragland addresses reporters in front of a frozen-yogurt shop Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018, in Kirkland, Wash. Ragland was thrown out of the shop weeks earlier when employees reported he looked suspicious. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

For Seattle civil rights attorney Lincoln Beauregard, hearing of UW student and Air Force veteran Byron Ragland’s experience at a Kirkland Menchie’s caused him to reflect on his own experiences as an African-American man in society.

Ragland was acting as a court-appointed special advocate, observing a meeting between a mother and her son in the frozen yogurt shop, located in Kirkland’s Totem Lake neighborhood. He sat apart from the parent and child, who had both purchased yogurts, and did not order anything himself.

Ramon Cruz, owner of the Totem Lake Menchies, told KIRO 7 that after the man had been there for half an hour, two teenage employees at the shop texted him asking what to do. He called 911. Two Kirkland police officers came to the shop, talked with Ragland, learned all the details, and still asked him to leave.

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Now Ragland wants justice for what he sees as racially-motivated grievances. At a press conference alongside the Seattle chapter of the NAACP Tuesday morning, he suggested that appropriate reparations could include Cruz’s business license being revoked, as well as enough funds being raised so that Ragland could purchase all of the eateries that Cruz currently owns.

Beauregard said that he can absolutely sympathize with Ragland and has had similar experiences himself in the past, but noted that the veteran may want to be a bit more careful in his speech if his goal is to pursue the Kirkland incident in court.

“It’s an anger that I can understand, I can relate to, I’ve experienced,” Beauregard said. “But, then I also have maybe sometimes a slightly different view of how I would have expressed myself if it was me.”

He elaborated that he is “not trying to pass judgement on that man,” and that Ragland does indeed have “a message to bring about.” However, he believes that Ragland could have handled the aftermath of the situation differently.

According to Beauregard, Ragland has a decent lawsuit for humiliation caused by racial motivations.

“I do think that this … was probably motivated by race … but then the question is proportionality and what you do when that message is handed to you,” he said. “I would probably approach it a little differently.”

Beauregard said that if Ragland was his client, he would advise him to be careful of how much fury he expresses on camera.

“You don’t want to have a bunch of video clips sounding a little too angry … because a jury 12 months from now is going to look at them and maybe think that the circumstances don’t match your level of anger,” he said.

Beauregard has become known around Seattle as the attorney who helped bring down former Mayor Ed Murray with a lawsuit over alleged molestation. He has also taken on the city through lawsuits over Seattle’s repealed head tax, and the controversy over how city leaders handled it.

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