Waiting for SPD: Seattle victims waiting along the road for more than an hour
Seattle police have long been under fire for slow response times to low level crimes such as auto theft and burglary. But, an incident in March shows that some victims of more serious crimes have also been waiting longer for help.
On March 10 the victim was driving his Nissan on 19th Avenue in the Lake City area, waiting to take a right onto NE 85th Street. According to police reports, he was about to turn when a red PT Cruiser to his left swerved across two lanes and cut him off.
The Nissan driver reacted by honking.
That’s when witnesses say the PT Cruiser started swerving around, trying to run the man off the road. Twice, the PT Cruiser screeched to a halt. The second time, Nissan wasn’t so quick to react and rear-ended the other car.
That’s when it got ugly.
According to witnesses, the driver of the PT Cruiser got out and kicked a dent in the back of the Nissan before reaching through the open drivers’ side window and smashing the man’s face into his own steering wheel — over and over.
In a case of Seattle road rage, a man was assaulted in the street. Seattle police took more than an hour to respond. (SPD)
The suspect took off as witnesses rushed over and called 911. One man who called police said he could hear the commotion in his office across the busy road. The 911 call was recorded.
“Do you think they need a medic?” a dispatcher asked.
“He’s got a nosebleed,” a witness said. “He’s got three witnesses standing around him. I think he’s fine, but — actually, he’s on his knees right now. I think he took a pretty hard hit.”
Those first 911 calls came in at 4:40 p.m. But, an officer wasn’t at the scene until more than an hour later — at almost 6 p.m. And medical aid never arrived.
“Sorry it took awhile to get here,” the responding officer is heard saying on in-car video. “I actually got called in four hours early to work today — because we don’t have anybody at work today, apparently.”
Witnesses described the suspect as a 5’ 8” tall white male of unknown age with dark hair and an orange beard, wearing a black shirt. He was driving a red or maroon PT Cruiser with several passengers inside.
The suspect’s car apparently didn’t have any license plates on it — just temporary paper tags in the window. That led the responding officer to believe it was stolen.
“Most of the time they’re fake [temporary tags], depending on who it is that’s driving the car. And the car might be stolen if it’s set up like that because they’ll make their own, they’ll print them out and then write on them just like a dealership would or a DMV would,” the officer said on the video.
And because of the time it took to respond, the officer said there was probably nothing they could do.
“The only thing I can do really is kinda let everybody know — keep a look out for the car,” the officer said. “And I’m going to be here all night and stuff, so I can kinda keep en eye out and see if I see it in some of the hang out spots.”
More than an hour to respond. Dispatchers never sent medical aid. The victim had to drive himself to the emergency room.
A Seattle Police spokesman was at a loss and could not account for the delay. This type of road rage assault is considered the second highest priority crime, just below a home invasion. It was logged as such by dispatchers.
No one from the department would go on the record, except to send this statement:
We are conducting a major overhaul of our 911 Response Center. Our department is investing in better technology, hiring additional staff, providing better training and upgrading our facilities to improve efficiency and communication in our 911 Center. We continue to conduct ongoing reviews of 911 responses, policies and procedures to ensure we are working to achieve our service goals.
It’s not clear how many officers were on patrol in the north precinct that day, but the Seattle Police Department has acknowledged they are understaffed. One recent report recommended the city add 200 more officers to the force.
The road rage incident was the second concerning traffic event in one day and in the same area of Seattle.
Around 4 p.m. a man near NE 77th Street and 20th Avenue NE called police to say that a woman was driving erratically and almost hit his car, forcing him to swerve off the road and careen into someone’s front yard. The caller said he thought the woman was drunk and that he was afraid she might go on to hurt someone else.
This case was different than the road rage incident when it took more than an hour for an officer to show up — no officers ever responded.
The caller sat by the road for an hour before calling 911 again, saying the woman had driven back to the scene, presumably to see if police were there. While waiting, the caller and a witness were apparently able to identify the suspect’s potential residence, since he saw the suspect circle around and pull into a nearby driveway.
The department did not file a case report on the crime. No arrests were made in either case.