Seattle police say the suspect followed a woman into the restroom at Carter Volkswagen, forced open a stall door, grabbed her by the throat and raped her. Two employees were eventually able to restrain the man until officers arrived.
A 24-year-old homeless man was charged Wednesday with first-degree rape and unlawful imprisonment with sexual motivation, two days after he is accused of attacking a woman in the temporary restroom of a Ballard car dealership.
Christopher Teel told police that he intentionally followed the 40-year-old victim into the women’s restroom with the intent of raping her and “locked the door so the victim would be unable to escape,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Emily Petersen wrote in charging papers. The woman had brought her car in for servicing that morning and was waiting for a shuttle to take her to work, according to police.
The attack was interrupted by employees of the dealership, Carter Motors, who then held the suspect for police.
Though a judge initially denied bail at Teel’s first court appearance on Tuesday, prosecutors on Wednesday asked that he be held in lieu of $1 million bail due to concerns for public safety, court records show.
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Teel moved to Seattle in 2016 and has apparently been homeless and unemployed since that time, charging papers say. Photographs of Teel appeared in The Seattle Times in November, accompanying a story about the Ballard Nickelsville homeless camp.
“It’s just sickening,” Jen Moran, the executive manager of Carter Motors, in the 5200 block of Leary Avenue Northwest, said of the rape. “She should’ve been (safe).”
Moran, who didn’t want to talk about the alleged rape in too much detail out of respect for the victim and because of the criminal investigation, said the woman who brought her car in for servicing was waiting for a shuttle.
“The (shuttle) driver couldn’t find her so went looking for her and heard yelling in the bathroom,” Moran said.
Three or four employees and a customer were able to tackle the suspect and hold him until police arrived, she said.
“I’m so proud of how they responded — their first thought was to go find her,” said Moran, who added that she and her employees had never seen the suspect before.
According to charging papers:
The victim took her car in for maintenance around 7 a.m. Monday and requested a shuttle ride to work. After dropping off her car, she went to a nearby coffee shop to buy coffee, then returned to the dealership, which is currently under renovation.
While construction work is being done on the dealership building, the property has two portable units, with the restrooms in one of the units at the end of a long ramp, past the dealership offices.
With time to spare before her 7:30 a.m. shuttle, the woman went to the women’s restroom and entered a stall, locking the door behind her. No one else was in the restroom.
The victim heard someone open the restroom door, then attempt to open her stall door, say charging papers. She called out, “Somebody’s in here,” before the person began banging and shaking the door.
“I realized they were male shoes at the bottom of the door. I started to (expletive) freak out,” the woman later told police.
She screamed for help and placed her feet on the stall door, trying to keep it closed, the charges say. The man broke the lock, forced the stall door partially open and “aggressively struggled to get inside” as the woman fought back, punching his face, arm and shoulder.
The man grabbed the woman by the neck and squeezed, forced his way into the stall, and then threw the woman out of the stall and onto the floor, where he raped her, according to the charges. She continued to fight and scream for help throughout the attack.
Someone banged on the bathroom door and the man stood up and moved to the sink, allowing the woman to open the door. A dealership employee asked what was wrong and the woman, who was crying and visibly upset, said she had just been raped, the charges say.
The employee yelled, “Rape … Sex Offender,” and another employee ran to the restroom, the charges say. The attacker attempted to push past the second man but he and other employees held him down until police arrived.
The woman was taken to a hospital, where she underwent a sexual-assault exam.
At the time of his arrest on Monday, Teel had been wanted on a $5,000 bench warrant issued in March 2017 for failing to appear for a court hearing in Seattle Municipal Court, according to the charges. Court records show he was charged with first-degree criminal trespass, a gross misdemeanor, in February 2017.
According to prosecutors, Teel is originally from Texas and moved to Seattle in summer 2016. It appears he has been homeless and unemployed since that time, charging papers say.
In March 2017, a sex offender from Arizona attacked a woman in the women’s restroom at Golden Gardens Park in Ballard, punching her repeatedly in the face as he tried to rape her, according to court records. The 36-year-old victim fought back and screamed, prompting a witness outside to call 911.
She was able to escape and with the help of bystanders, blocked the door to keep Gary Steiner, now 41, inside the restroom until police arrived.
Steiner pleaded guilty to second-degree assault with sexual motivation in March and was sentenced to three years in prison, court records show. But because his crime was sexually motivated, Steiner’s sentence is indeterminate, which means he could face a longer time behind bars.