A victim and witnesses said a detective refused to intervene when a man yelled racial epithets and made threats during a January incident at the Bellevue Transit Center.
A veteran Bellevue police detective is the subject of an internal investigation for allegedly walking away and failing to intervene as a white man hurled racial slurs and threatened violence against African-American bus riders at the Bellevue Transit Center in January, according to Bellevue’s police chief and King County prosecutors.
The man suspected of yelling the threats has been identified as Robert Panera, a 53-year-old transient who has been charged with malicious harassment, the state’s hate-crime statute, court records show. A $25,000 warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Charging documents identify the officer as “Det. Lindquist,” who was working an off-duty job at a nearby construction site and was approached for help by the alleged victim, a 32-year-old black man.
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Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett would not confirm the name of the officer, but acknowledged there is an internal investigation involving a member of the police department’s detectives bureau.
“All we have right now is an allegation. Until we get to the bottom of it, he’ll continue to do his job,” Mylett said of the detective.
The investigation into the detective’s conduct is still in its early stages, said Mylett, who will eventually receive a recommendation from the detective’s chain of command and decide if the officer should be disciplined.
According to charging documents, the alleged victim turned over videos of the incident to police that he recorded on his cellphone, and his account was corroborated by two witnesses.
State law defines malicious harassment — a felony commonly referred to as a hate crime — as intentionally injuring, damaging property or threatening someone because of his or her perception of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical or sensory handicap.
The incident at the downtown Bellevue Transit Center happened around 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 23.
Panera, the suspect, called 911 to report he was being attacked at the transit center, at 10850 N.E. Sixth St., and three officers responded, charging papers say. They spoke with Panera and an older black man, but the officers “were unable to develop probable cause for a crime that involved the two.”
The officers also spoke with Lindquist, the detective, who provided clothing descriptions and pointed out another male who had boarded a bus, the charges say.
According to Mylett and charging papers, Lindquist didn’t mention anything to the responding patrol officers about threats or racial slurs. One officer filed an informational report but took no further action, the charges say.
A short time later, the alleged victim called Bellevue police to report the incident and a police captain took his statement, charging papers say.
The alleged victim said he had been waiting for a bus at the transit center and witnessed a disturbance between Panera and the older black man, then saw Panera call 911 and heard him claim to have been attacked, even though Panera had been the aggressor, the charges say.
When the alleged victim confronted Panera about his claim, Panera turned his attention on him. Panera yelled at him, followed him around the transit center and made threats of violence while repeatedly using expletives and racial slurs, the charges say.
The alleged victim “hurriedly walked to the east side of the transit center and contacted a police officer, later identified as Detective Lindquist,” and asked him for help, say the charges.
Lindquist, who had been working as a flagger at a nearby construction site, walked over to where the two men were and Panera continued to yell slurs “at persons of color even though Lindquist was present,” the victim later said, according to the charges.
At one point, the alleged victim was so afraid of Panera that he hid behind Lindquist as Panera yelled and lunged at him before Panera abruptly walked away, say the charges. According to the charges, the alleged victim “felt so unsafe that he boarded the first available bus” and called 911 from home.
One witness told police Panera walked down a line of people waiting for a bus and “singled out each African American, pointed at them” and yelled racial slurs, the statement says.
She told police the last rider to be accosted was the alleged victim, who sought help from an officer. But the officer said something to the effect of, “This happens all the time” before walking away, the charges say.
A second woman also told police the officer “did nothing” and looked bored or exasperated during the incident, according to charging papers.
She “felt duty-bound to inform the officer that he had witnessed a hate crime under state law,” the charges say. “The officer still did nothing.”
When the alleged victim asked for the officer’s name and badge number, the “officer turned, walked away and muttered something indistinguishable,” the witness said, according to the charges.
The captain and two other officers involved in the investigation agreed Panera threatened the alleged victim due to Panera’s perception of the man’s race, and that the alleged victim feared for his safety and believed Panera intended to harm him, the charges say.