Redmond police chief calls for stronger stalking laws

Mar 16, 2023, 5:01 PM | Updated: Mar 17, 2023, 10:38 am
Redmond Police...
The Redmond Police Department (KIRO 7 News)
(KIRO 7 News)

Days after a double homicide in Redmond that police said was the act of a stalker, Redmond Police Chief Darrell Lowe is calling for stronger stalking laws in our state.

Lowe said it should be a more streamlined process for a victim to get a protection order against their stalker, and for police and prosecutors to bring the stalker to justice.

“The way it currently is written, it doesn’t make it as … easy as it should be for an investigation to move forward, for a prosecutor to actually file charges against the person,” Lowe told KIRO Newsradio.

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Lowe is calling on the Legislature to pass House Bill 1696, which would expand the definition of stalking so that it is easier to call stalking acts a crime. The bill unanimously passed in the House, but still needs to make its way through the Senate to go on the books.

If the bill does become law, it would allow any emotional distress a person experiences as a result of being harassed, followed, or electronically tracked to count as evidence of a crime.

“It’s emotional, it’s not necessarily a physical injury. It is based on the acts of the suspect — the stalking, the terrorizing, text messages, emails, phone calls, et cetera. That is a real issue, that is a real thing for a victim, but as the current law is, that is oftentimes not enough for cases to move forward,” Lowe explained. “So with the proposed changes, it will allow those issues, that fear, to be a viable part of a prosecutable case.”

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Current law does not take that emotional factor into account, instead requiring an act of harm or fear on the victim’s part that physical harm is imminent. Lowe said it is dangerous to require a stalking victim to wait for more tangible proof, since, by the time that proof arrives, it may be too late.

“This [bill] is really important in helping stalking victims seek protective orders,” Lowe said. “It will also help investigators and law enforcement when they bring these cases forward to the prosecutor to be able to obtain those protective orders, and then hopefully be able to serve them.”

During testimony this week, the bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Lauren Davis (D-Shoreline), said the state’s current system favors the stalker instead of the victim.

“We have, for all intents and purposes, decriminalized this insidious behavior,” Davis said. “It is incredibly difficult to charge and to prove.”

She believes her bill would legitimize victims’ feelings in the eyes of the justice system.

“About half of all stalking victims who are murdered actually reported their stalking,” she said. “But unfortunately … often those reports are not taken seriously because the individual acts of stalking on their own are typically not criminal in nature, and they may not appear threatening to someone who doesn’t understand the context.”

Zohre Sadeghi, the woman murdered in Redmond last week along with her husband, Mohammed Milad Naseri, had filed and been granted a protection order against alleged stalker Ramin Khodakaramrezaei. Lowe said police had not been able to serve the order because Khodakaramrezaei was a truck driver from Texas who was difficult to locate, as he was often on the road. However, Lowe noted that even if they had been able to serve that order, it may not have helped as criminals often ignore court orders.

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“A restraining order is simply a piece of paper that allows officers to take enforcement action should a suspect violate a court order,” Lowe said during a press conference on the day of the murders. “But a piece of paper does not protect a person when someone is intent on causing them harm.”

He advised anyone in a similar situation to report each and every action of the stalker to law enforcement so that everything can be documented. He also recommended taking security measures, such as putting up cameras and alarm systems in your home.

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Redmond police chief calls for stronger stalking laws