Rantz: I witnessed a homeless man overdose and it highlights Seattle failures

Mar 20, 2024, 5:55 PM | Updated: Mar 21, 2024, 10:11 am

homeless overdose...

The scene of the overdose outside a 7-Eleven on Third Ave. and Marion Street. (Photo: The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH 770 AM)

(Photo: The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH 770 AM)

I watched a 30-year-old Seattle homeless overdose last week. He didn’t die solely because of a drug overdose. He died because of city inaction, radical lawmakers and progressive activism that let him down.

I was driving off the ferry last Sunday morning after an overnight stay in Bremerton where I was delivering a speech centered around my book. Downtown was a ghost town, the only ones around were homeless addicts loitering outside a 7-Eleven on 3rd Avenue and Marion Street.

While waiting at a red light around 9:40 a.m., I saw what I first thought was a fight. I pulled out my cell phone to call 911 but quickly realized it wasn’t a fight, but a man performing chest compressions on a lifeless body under what looked like a blanket. After a few moments, a second man took over. They appeared to be nonprofit staff who keep in contact with the homeless.

Then, the blare of a fire truck’s emergency sirens filled the mostly empty downtown streets. The few cars behind me and I pulled over to let the fire truck through. If anyone was going to help this man, it was the Seattle Fire crew. But as I drove away, I suspected the inevitable was going to happen: The man, who appeared homeless, would be pronounced dead. I was right.

How did this Seattle homeless overdose happen?

The Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Javon Monte Wilson died outside on the sidewalk. It was an accidental overdose.

“SFD arrived and despite life-saving efforts, the male was pronounced deceased. There is no evidence to suggest foul play at this time and the King County ME [Medical Examiner] responded to the scene,” a Seattle Police Department spokesperson explained to The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

Wilson’s cause of death is listed as acute combined drug intoxication including fentanyl and methamphetamine. He was one of the 218 overdose deaths in King County as of March 20.

He wasn’t the only overdose fatality that day. A 26-year-old named Elijah died of a fentanyl and meth overdose while living outdoors. A 60-year-old named John died on the roadway from meth intoxication.

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The OD victim had a lengthy criminal history

Before the homeless overdose, Wilson had a criminal history. This is common for Seattle’s drug-addicted homeless.

According to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Wilson’s criminal history included harassment, reckless endangerment-DV, three Assault in the Fourth Degree charges, obstruction, and misdemeanor violation of a domestic violence no-contact order.

In 2021, he was hit with a robbery in the second-degree charge. His alleged victim was a homeless man in a wheelchair.

Prosecutors alleged Wilson “beat the victim over a few cans of beer.” The alleged beating was severe. Court documents read Wilson “pulled the victim from his wheelchair and beat him with a cane so hard [that] he bent the cane.” He also is accused of throwing a full can of beer at the victim. After the victim refused to cooperate, the charge was dropped.

Wilson was most recently hit with misdemeanor charges from the Seattle City Attorney’s Office on Jan. 2. Police recommended Harassment-Felony Previous Conviction charge. Court documents showed he repeatedly did not show up for court appearances after a judge released him from custody. The judge ordered a bench warrant on Feb. 15.

Seattle’s failure to address homelessness turns downtown hellish again

Of course, it’s unknown if Wilson was an addict. Given the circumstances of his death, and the fact that he appeared to be living outside, he was likely one of the thousands of local homeless addicts taking over King County and Seattle.

Walk around downtown Seattle, in particular, and the homeless crisis is clear.

Some homeless huddle in groups, bodies contorted in uncomfortable, zombie-like poses as they sway slowly back and forth, barely staying on their feet as they give into the fentanyl high. Others alone, hunched over, looking like they’re dead. You can see open sores on their legs and arms. You can tell they haven’t had a shower in weeks or months. Their pants are soiled.

Drugs are sold as openly as they are consumed. They do not hide it because they’re so consumed by their addiction. They also know there won’t be any legal consequences. Despite Democrats finally walking back their drug decriminalization efforts, after historic overdose fatalities, homeless drug users are not really being arrested. Those who get to avoid jail as the King County jails are still operating under COVID protocols and won’t book nonviolent drug crimes.

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How progressive policies worsened Seattle’s drug and homeless crisis

Downtown doesn’t look like city leaders have pride in the city. While Democrats in Olympia made the crisis worse with soft-on-crime policies and drug decriminalization, local leaders embraced the changes and doubled down on failed policies.

Seattle started the new year with promise. The new city council seems to be more moderate; they’re certainly talking that way. And with Sarah Nelson, we finally have a competent, reasonable city council president for the first time in a long time. But a city council is only as strong as a city’s mayor and Harrell continues to drop the ball.

Residents shouldn’t confuse press releases and press conferences for leadership. Harrell has always talked a good game, but he hasn’t delivered the results people expected. You could excuse some of his failures when he had a radical council who wouldn’t let him lead. But what’s stopping him now? The city has definitely seen more sweeps lately, but those encampments were left alone for months to years. And it feels like Harrell is still too scared to upset an activist base that opposes sweeps and drug enforcement, while pushing a “housing first” and “harm reduction” strategy that simply does not and will not work.

The mayor could change directions. He could order more sweeps, aggressively pushing the homeless into shelter or treatment under threat of suffering jail time if they’re breaking the law. It’ll upset a small group of activists on Capitol Hill, but they’ve been calling the shots while homelessness and drug addiction have seen historic highs. Who cares if they get upset? The benefits of a working homelessness and drug plan far outweigh the possible shouting from a small group of 20-somethings with nothing better to do.

Wilson didn’t have an advocate willing to help save his life. And if he was helped early on, perhaps the alleged crimes would never have been committed. He’d likely still be alive. Seattle is full of plenty more like Wilson who will languish and die unless the city starts treating these issues with the urgency they deserve. While we can’t prevent all Seattle homeless overdose deaths, we could at least try better to stop them.

Listen to The Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

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Rantz: I witnessed a homeless man overdose and it highlights Seattle failures