A man who allegedly grabbed Burien’s mayor around the neck during a community festival has been charged with a hate crime by the state’s Attorney General Office.
Craig Tweney, 63, is charged with malicious harassment, the state’s hate-crime law, and with fourth-degree assault in connection with an incident involving Burien Mayor Jimmy Matta. Matta is the city’s first Latino mayor.
Matta said Tweney also made racist comments while attempting to put Matta in a headlock at the Olde Burien Block Party on July 21, 2018.
The case is being handled by the state Attorney General’s Office rather than the King County Prosecutor’s Office because King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg was at the event and therefore a potential witness.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson recused himself from the case because he had endorsed Matta. Ferguson’s name appears on the charging document even though he isn’t involved because the charges were filed under his authority.
Investigators with the King County Sheriff’s Office said Matta told them he was talking with some people in the beer garden when he felt someone’s arm on the back of his neck. He said he was then pulled forward and scraped his left bicep on the waist-high wooden fence of the beer garden.
Matta told investigators that, during the incident, Tweney told him, “I’ll kill you and your illegal friends.” Matta said once he was free, Tweney continued, saying, “We’re not going to let Latinos take over our community.”
Investigators said Tweney came to police two days later, explaining that he did have an interaction with Matta but did not assault the mayor. Tweney said in a declaration to the Sheriff’s Office that he tripped while approaching Matta to talk about city policies, and that as he stumbled, his arm went around Matta to try keep from falling.
In his statement to the Sheriff’s Office, Tweney disputed Matta’s claims that racist language was used. Tweney said he recalled himself saying, “It’s starting to look like almost all the businesses in Burien are catering to Hispanic and Latino American citizens, with signage in Spanish. Will that happen to the whole town? It feels like a takeover.”
Matta, who supports Burien being a sanctuary city for immigrants, was elected to the Burien City Council in 2017 after a contentious and racially charged campaign. His council colleagues later chose him to be mayor.