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Monroe assault victim told alleged assailant was ‘defending himself’

A Monroe woman allegedly attacked by a homeless man she had taken photos of said that Monroe police told her the man had a right to defend himself.

Jovanna Edge, a Monroe business owner, said that problems with drugs, public camping, and other crimes have gotten out of hand in the city.

“They’re using [drugs] on the streets, they’re using in front of businesses … they’re stealing from people, they’re coming into the neighborhoods,” she said. “It’s really bad.”

When she noticed that there was a new camp set up under the awning of a private business, she decided to report the trespassing to police. Edge pulled into the parking lot and rolled down her car window to get a better photo.

Charitable Monroe business hit with 5 burglaries this year

At that moment, the man she was photographing came up and threw a reddish liquid from a bottle all over her. She did not know what the liquid was, but described it as “putrid-smelling.”

“It went all over the inside of my car, all over myself, all over the outside,” she said.

She immediately rolled up the window and called 911, but before she could finish dialing, he was back. This time, he was raising “a grapefruit-sized rock” above his head, as if to throw it at her. Edge said that the rock was big enough to be a deadly weapon.

She drove away and called police, this time to report the assault and attempted attack. What police told her astounded her.

“He told me that the vagrant had the right to defend himself [from my photography],” she said. “And he was defending himself with the rock and with this bottle of liquid.”

The previous night, the same suspect had allegedly ejaculated into a hot dog at a Monroe 7-11 and had then thrown the hot dog and its contents over a car with a woman and child in it.

On Thursday, he allegedly stole an elderly woman’s purse out of her wheelchair at the Providence Medical Group Monroe Clinic. Police later found the alleged thief and returned the purse to the victim. The video of the theft can be seen on the Monroe Police Department’s Facebook page.

The man is now in the Snohomish County Jail on theft and drug paraphernalia possession charges. However, Edge feels that the theft from the elderly woman and her own assault could have been avoided if police had arrested the man after the first alleged assault.

“The poor old woman would have been spared if they had done something initially,” Edge said.

Monroe Police Department responds

Monroe Police Chief Jeffrey Jolley called the suspect “one of that core group of 15 to 20 individuals that we’re dealing with on a repetitive, constant basis.”

The City of Monroe is working toward getting people housed and off drugs. A Homeless Policy Advisory Committee was added this year, and a city social worker program began three years ago.

“We’re trying to find every mechanism that we possibly can that’s available to law enforcement to deal with this issue,” he said.

Progress aside, Jolley still finds the day-to-day problems difficult to deal with.

“I am frustrated and when I first heard about this particular incident, it kind of shocked me, coming from out of state, to hear that it wasn’t a violation of law for somebody to throw a liquid on somebody’s car,” he said. “And that was very aggravating.”

Still, Jolley said that it could still be considered a crime, especially if it is found that liquid was thrown on the inside of the car. In a photo taken by Edge, drops of fluid can be seen on the passenger seat. Jolley sent the case back to the city prosecutor for review, with the recommendation that it be charged as malicious mischief.

While King County does not prosecute personal possession amounts of drugs, Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell is turning attention toward low-level, civility offenses, and has introduced a plan to once again start prosecuting less than 2 grams of drugs.

“The mission we’re carrying out is to have zero tolerance,” Jolley said of the Monroe Police Department. “If there’s a violation of the law, you’re going to go to jail.”

Still, he said, problems arise when people do not remain in jail for the length of crime befitting the crime, getting released on their own recognizance instead.

“They seem to be back in our communities almost as quickly as we can take them to jail,” he said.

Another reason for the back-and-forth, Jolley finds, is a broken mental health system that makes it far easier to let people remain on the streets as a danger to themselves and others than to get them the help they need.

“I do see in our area that the police are holding the line, and the prosecutors seem to be doing a great job enforcing laws that impact livability,” he said.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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