JASON RANTZ

Rantz: Seattle man live-tweeted ‘hostage taking.’ He keeps getting out of jail

Jan 23, 2022, 2:21 PM | Updated: Jan 25, 2022, 5:09 am
hostages, Target...
Seattle Police arrive at a Target in West Seattle (Photo via KIRO 7)
(Photo via KIRO 7)

A man who says he suffers from mental illness keeps cycling through the King County criminal justice system. He has a long history of suicide-by-cop attempts. Someone is bound to get hurt, or worse, if the man is not kept in jail.

Now, the suspect is accused of trying to take hostages at a Target in West Seattle, where he barricaded himself for hours. He allegedly posted videos of himself from inside the store after threatening would-be hostages with a knife. It’s not the first time he’s been accused of trying to hold shoppers hostage at a department store.

The suspect was arrested and charged with assaulting a Seattle police officer just eight days prior. But a judge released the suspect on his own personal recognizance, despite the prosecutor’s plea for bail. It set the stage for the suspect to take over the Target.

The suspect tried to take hostages

At roughly 4:43 p.m. on Jan. 21, the suspect called 911 to say he was going to “take 1 hostage at knife point,” according to police documents. He was apparently “fixated” on the idea and stayed on with the 911 operator throughout the entire alleged incident.

The caller refused to tell the operator where he was headed because, according to the police document detailing the call, “he’ll just be sent back to the hospital & the hospital won’t assist & and will just release him.” He acknowledged his “need for mental health services.”

He took a bus from an unknown location, telling the bus driver that he is homeless. He ended up at a Target in West Seattle. His “plan” was to get a kitchen knife and “take hostages to be on national news.”

Once at the store, he allegedly asked an employee “where knives are” before grabbing one and unwrapping it. Police documents say he threatened a female customer as a witness was “yelling to get out of the building.” As they left, the suspect allegedly yelled, “stop, I’m holding you hostage,” and “if I can’t get the help I need, I’m holding you hostage.”

The suspect allegedly approached random customers to tell them they were hostages. He wanted officers to kill him, the police document says, and was “planning to run at police with [the] knife.”

As customers evacuated the Target, police arrived at approximately 5:45 p.m.

The suspect live-tweeted the crime

A hostage negotiator team arrived on the scene and connected with the suspect over the phone. The suspect was inside the Target for more than six hours.

As police tried to de-escalate, the suspect told them he was “actively posting updates on his Twitter account while inside the store.”

A Twitter account attached to the suspect’s name posted two videos and two photos from inside the store. It also included commentary and a link to a local blog that was covering the incident.

“Thanks to gun control and being poor no gun to take hostages with and 29+ ppl I tried to take hostage ran like mad,” he tweeted at 8:03 p.m.

Several minutes earlier, he said he “peed twice on floor of target I took over.” He joked that they won’t likely hire him once he’s out of jail.

In the posted videos, the suspect rambles with run-on sentences as he faces the cell phone camera and walks around the store.

“Well, this court case is going to be funny. No, I’m not representing myself,” he said on one video posted at 7:58 p.m. “Yeah, I cannot do … I cannot represent myself for —-. I got super lucky that the prosecutor’s office … this bull—- charges on me on that one. See my face is all messed up because I don’t have, I don’t have money for —- man. So yeah, this will be fun for …”

The video cuts off. But at 10:01 p.m., a second video is posted.

“So this is a very unique barricade situation that I’ve created,” he said in the video. “So what happened is, I didn’t have access to guns because of being a felon, not having money and connections to buy off the street, would not be able to assemble a ghost gun if I had the money to purchase the components and in the 3D printer and whatever. So this is, so we have in the criminal element, there’s no way even that comes even close to the understanding, a tactical and negotiation and having worked for a law enforcement agency. This is a very unique …”

Again, the video cuts off.

SWAT goes in

The de-escalation was deemed unsuccessful and SWAT arrived on the scene. With permission from the store manager, SWAT entered the building.

At 12:05 a.m., the suspect tweeted that “SWAT just arrived big time!!!” And then 12:15 a.m., the suspect posted a blurry photo of SWAT as they approached him inside the Target.

[email protected] swat face with face,” he tweeted.

Six minutes later, he posted another photo of the SWAT members, but without accompanying text.

By 12:26 a.m., SWAT made an arrest. He was booked into the King County Jail.

As of Jan. 22, SPD had not yet referred the case to the King County Prosecutor’s Office. Prosecutors presented a first-appearance document to the judge and argued there was probable cause for first-degree burglary. A judge agreed with the assessment, but bail has not yet been addressed.

Suspect attempted hostage situation at Fred Meyer in 2021

The suspect attempted the same type of hostage situation in 2021 at a Fred Meyer in Burien.

On Aug. 18, 2021, the suspect armed himself with a pair of scissors and said he was looking for the kitchen area of the store. Once he found the knives, he armed himself with one. According to a police document, he explained his “intention was to take hostages at the store.” He requested that SWAT and Crisis Negotiators respond to the scene.

“He claimed to have taken his mother hostage recently, but was now taking Fred Meyer hostage because he ‘could not get the help he needed.'”

As the store was being evacuated, the suspect negotiated with officers. Finally, he was taken into custody with no injuries and charged with felony harassment. But the prosecutor dismissed the charge and it appeared to have been downgraded to a misdemeanor, according to the Prosecutor’s Office. A spokesperson notes that multiple prosecutors from the office reviewed the case and determined they couldn’t prove their felony case beyond a reasonable doubt. A spokesperson for the Prosecutor’s Office notes that the misdemeanor case at least led to a conviction resulting in an order for Mental Health Court.

Police said the suspect “is known to law enforcement, as there have been multiple incidents with him in the past.”

Suspect pulled a knife at different Target in 2020

In January of 2020, the suspect attempted a similar stunt at a Target in downtown Seattle.

After attending a mental health appointment, prosecutors said he entered the department store, stole a 10-inch kitchen knife, and started yelling that he wanted to commit a “suicide by cop.” A security officer attempted to calm him down, but the suspect threatened the officer with a knife and stole his phone to call 911 and report his crime-in-progress.

SPD arrived and convinced the suspect to drop his knife.

“The defendant’s current and past actions demonstrate that he is engaging in a pattern of escalating violent behavior that is putting his safety, the safety of law enforcement officers, and the safety of those around him in danger,” the prosecutor wrote.

A judge found the suspect guilty of felony harassment but was only sentenced to three months in jail. The sentencing guidelines are set by state lawmakers.

Long history of suicide-by-cop attempts

Seattle and King County law enforcement know the suspect all too well. He’s a one-time civilian employee of the Seattle Police Department, a job he received in an apparent effort to stop him from filing laborious and frivolous public disclosure requests.

He has a very long criminal record and has previously attempted a suicide-by-cop.

Between July 2018 and January 2019, prosecutors say the suspect had at least 10 instances of suicide-by-cop. On Jan. 23, 2019, he was charged with assaulting five officers during an 11th suicide-by-cop attempt.

Prosecutors alleged the suspect “showed up to a police station with an airsoft gun that had been modified to look like an operable handgun and attempted to commit suicide by police through pointing the gun at five police officers while yelling and shaking.” Cops knew to expect him: The suspect called 911 prior to the incident to explain what he was attempting.

Most recently, the suspect was charged with assaulting a police officer. A judge released the suspect on his own personal recognizance over the prosecutor’s objection. Earlier in the day, the suspect was subject to a “city wide safety warning” stating he “planned on forcing an officer to kill him,” according to a police document obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

System failure is putting the public at risk

The suspect has been in and out of mental health care treatment, according to a police source familiar with the suspect.

Law enforcement even has a “Crisis Response Plan” for the suspect to help keep officers safe. It says in 2021, that he “spoke about looking into how to make bombs and wanting to blow up Swedish [Hospital] – FBI & Swedish notified.”

It recommends arrest if probable cause exists, and trespassing the suspect when appropriate. Officers are given de-escalation techniques to use and warned of his past incidents.

The suspect is either not getting the help he desperately needs, or he is and it’s not working. And the court system is not taking him seriously enough. How can he be released on his own personal recognizance after assaulting an officer when he has a long history of suicide-by-cop attempts?

He is going to get himself or someone else killed. He belongs in jail for as long as possible. He can get medical treatment there.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3–6 pm on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Seattle man live-tweeted ‘hostage taking.’ He keeps getting out of jail