Someone with access to a Seattle Fire Department email address has been sending threatening emails to Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, she said Tuesday as she asked city officials to investigate.
The emails, which Sawant said she received between Dec. 17 and Jan. 18, are both ominous and threatening.
“The time is here,” the emailer wrote Monday, according to the emails supplied by Sawant’s office. “Announce your resignation now, or else.”
“If you know what’s good, you would know it’s time to go,” a person wrote in December. “If you need help leaving, try jumping head first off the top floor of your building. I’ll even come push you.”
Sawant, in a letter to Mayor Jenny Durkan, Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz and the leadership of the local firefighters union, asked for the emails to be investigated and taken seriously.
“I believe these emails must be taken very seriously given the current political context with an emboldened right wing nationally, the specific threatening content of the emails, and the fact that they originate from a City of Seattle email account,” Sawant wrote. “There should be a thorough investigation into this matter immediately — particularly in light of the possible link between these emails and the far right protests planned for Biden’s inauguration.”
Sgt. Randy Huserik, a Seattle Police Department (SPD) spokesperson, said they were notified about the threats Tuesday night and immediately launched an investigation.
“The SPD takes threats against public officials — and all hate speech — very seriously, so investigators from the Department’s Intelligence Unit are now working to identify a potential suspect,” Huserik wrote in an email.
Kelsey Nyland, a Durkan spokesperson, said any serious threats to elected officials will be investigated by the SPD.
“Over the last year, Mayor Durkan and many elected officials have faced an exponential increase in death threats, vandalism, and targeted hate speech,” Nyland wrote in an email. “Mayor Durkan has continuously denounced any violence and hate speech towards any elected officials and small businesses. Violent threats, vandalism, and misogynistic and homophobic hate speech are not acceptable in our community.”
Sawant is now fighting an effort to recall her from office based, in part, on her participation in a protest at Durkan’s house last summer. Durkan’s address is protected by a state confidentiality program because of her work as a federal prosecutor.
Sawant said that after she informed Fire Department leadership of the emails last month, she received a brief note from Helen Fitzpatrick, the departments director of administration.
“It was brought to our attention that several concerning emails may have been sent to you via Outlook on December 17 and December 19 from a Seattle Fire Department employee’s email address,” Fitzpatrick wrote on Dec. 31, according to the note provided by Sawant. “The SFD employee is claiming that he did not send the emails.”
Fitzpatrick said they were “currently looking into the matter.”
Sawant was incredulous. How is it possible, she asked in her letter, that the emails have “been allowed to continue?”
“If the employee is to be believed that he did not send the threatening emails, has there been no effort by the department to secure his account?” Sawant asked. “Has the employee not so much as been asked to change his password?”
She said she addressed her letter to Durkan and Diaz as well, because “the Fire Department appears not to have taken this matter seriously.”
“The Seattle Fire Department initiated an internal investigation as soon as we were made aware of several threatening emails sent to Councilmember Sawant from a department email address,” Seattle Fire spokesperson Kristin Tinsley said.