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Les Schwab employee tells how he saved woman shoved into burning tent

A man in a homeless camp can be seen pushing this woman into a burning tent in a security camera video. (Screenshot)

It’s the disturbing video (warning: violent content) that has gone viral in the Seattle community — caught on security cameras, campers in a Ballard homeless camp off 15th Avenue Northwest react as one of their tents catches on fire. Suddenly, one of the men in the camp appears to begin shouting at a young woman, and then pushes a her into the burning tent.

She tries to fight him off, but he repeatedly shoves her down into the burning tent, shakes her forcefully, and tries to strangle her. That’s when Verlie Pitts, an employee from the Les Schwab across the street, runs to her aid, grabbing the attacker by his collar and pulling him away. The assailant then turns on Pitts, swinging several punches at him, and knocking his glasses to the ground.

Pitts told the Dori Monson Show that he was coming to the homeless campers’ aid before the woman was viciously attacked on Wednesday. He had heard the woman shouting for an ambulance because the man who would shortly thereafter assault her was lying face-down in the road, then he saw the burning tent, so Pitts asked the front desk at Les Schwab to call the fire department.

Then, he saw the harm being so brutally inflicted.

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“I walked over, grabbed hold of him, and told him he shouldn’t do that to women,” Pitts said.

Luckily, Pitts said, the assailant was “kind of a small guy” and did not do any damage to him.

The attacker was booked into the King County Jail on a charge of domestic violence assault, a felony.

Previously, he was arrested and booked into jail last June on multiple charges of unlawful use of a weapon. Bail was denied, but he was released two days later. That case remains ongoing.

Pitts does not know the fate of the young woman whose life he may have saved. He guessed she was in her early to mid-20s, and that the entire group was under the influence of drugs.

While Pitts has never witnessed that level of violence before, unfortunately, in Ballard, scenes of tent encampments, erratic behavior, and drug use are not a rare occurrence.

“It’s pretty common, to see someone camped out across the street from us start cursing or yelling for no reason,” Pitts 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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