Rantz: Seattle Times leads charge in transparent anti-police hit piece

Jul 13, 2023, 5:55 PM

Seattle Police tombstone...

Zoomed-in screenshot of the body cam footage displaying a mock tombstone with the name Damarius Butts and the date he was killed by SPD in the bicycle repair room. (KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

The Seattle Times is leading the charge in a transparent hit piece against the Seattle Police Department suspiciously timed to coincide with a decision over the federal consent decree and increased public support for police.

Mike Carter, who owns the anti-police beat at the Times, published his hit piece seemingly with the help of the law firm McDonald Hoague & Bayless, which is suing the city and police over an anti-graffiti law. The firm acquired bodycam footage taken from a bicycle repair room at the East Precinct, not merely a “break room” as was inaccurately reported. It’s from January 2, 2021, after the SPD sustained months of violent rallies and riots — and an armed insurrection that led to the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ).

We should have seen this hit piece coming. Whenever there is too much goodwill offered towards cops, you can count on partisan voices to try to change the public’s view.

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Selectively highlighting “controversial” tombstone at Seattle Police repair room

Carter’s reporting focuses on the two items in the room that he believes would offend the public: a “mock tombstone” and a Donald Trump flag.

The video shows an officer stored a tombstone display, reportedly created by protesters and left outside the precinct, with the name Damarius Butts and the date when he was killed by police. Protesters used this display to accuse police of murdering a black man during the Black Lives Matter protests and riots. Butts was killed after committing an armed robbery and trying to murder police officers, shooting three, one of whom was seriously wounded with a bullet to the chin.

At least one other protester-created “art” was also stored in the bicycle repair room. The video captures the image of a board (presumably used to board up the windows to protect the building from the radicals seeking to burn it down or blow it up) with a black fist spray-painted on it. Why isn’t this a bigger piece of the story? Because it would establish an inconvenient fact that the officers did not create the tombstone.

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The framing is meant to invoke anger

The language Carter uses to discuss the tombstone — “mock” — is correct. But it also seems intended to confuse people into thinking the tombstone was mocking the death. Indeed, Carter Ann Butts, the shooter’s mother, is demanding an apology because she believes the cops were “joking” about the death.

“I can’t express how hurtful it was to learn that SPD endorsed joking about the killing of my son by displaying a fake tombstone with his name on it,” she said in a statement through her attorney.

While one can understand a mother mourning the death of her son, even if his own actions led to his death, it should be made clear that Butts was not a victim of police brutality; he was a clear danger. It’s why officers were cleared of wrongdoing during a King County inquest intended to stack the odds against officers to make prosecution easier — a concession to the Black Lives Matter activist crowds demanding criminal justice reforms. And no, the SPD did not “endorse” any joke.

It’s unclear how long the tombstone and board were stored in the bicycle repair room; but we’re supposed to believe command staff should have known it was there. I suspect the room is referred to as a “break room” to give off the false impression that many people would see the items stored there. But even if they did, the items weren’t there in any way indicating it was used to mock or joke about Butts or the protesters.

The Trump flag

It was an error in judgment for any officer to post the Trump flag, which is overtly political and prominently displayed — even if it was, perhaps, posted ironically. It is, after all, posted next to a giant image of the so-called “toughest animal on Earth.” It’s effectively a posting of a meme, which also escaped the focus of the Times piece.

But the former president broke progressives and with a newspaper like the Times so overtly partisan against Trump (and conservatives), officers should have known that if the image got out, it would earn rebuke and lead to controversy, even if it is contrived. It is an easily predictable reaction.

And let me disabuse you of the notion that a Clinton, Biden, or Black Lives Matter flag would instigate even a fraction of the condemnation from the Times (if any at all) if it was hanging in place of the Trump flag. And given the fact that you still have city leaders and activist who have not condemned the violence against cops nor the signs and graffiti promoting the death of cops, the phony condemnation is little more than performative politics.

The Trump flag is more of an error in judgment than the tombstone and black fist board. Is it possible that those two items were kept there as reminders that the people seeking to not just defund them but physically harm them is based on a lie that they’re murdering innocent black men? Yes. But that’s not offensive.

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Why the smear right now?

This video is from 2021, before any substantial BLM-generated reforms were fully implemented. Even if one were to naively believe the officers’ motivations were to offend, which the Times seems to want you to believe, no reasonable person should judge the entire department, nor pretend that there has been no cultural shift amongst the staff. While the Radical Left seem okay judging an entire profession by a handful of uncommon incidents, the rest of us should reject that standard.

But the timing of this story, to me, seems suspicious.

I’m not privy to the timeline of when either the lawyers or the Times received the video, but it’s hard to ignore that a judge is currently deciding whether or not the SPD will be released from a federal consent decree. And this video is being used by activists to pressure the judge to decide the culture hasn’t changed.

Consent decree and polling

Joel Merkel Jr., co-Chair of the Seattle Community Police Commission — a self-governed civilian activist group that oversees the department — called out cultural issues.

“I was horrified that this was something that would be displayed in a break room of the Seattle Police Department,” Merkel said. “This is a culture that just cannot exist in any police department, much less a police department that’s under a federal consent decree … to have a tombstone for him in their break room, while his inquest into the circumstances of his death had already begun, is just absolutely appalling.”

There’s also been recent polls showing the public wants SPD to be involved in Seattle’s drug crisis. That must anger the newspaper’s left-wing reporting staff who don’t do a very good job of hiding their political bias.

Listen to The Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). He is the author of the book What’s Killing America: Inside the Radical Left’s Tragic Destruction of Our CitiesSubscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Seattle Times leads charge in transparent anti-police hit piece