Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz on Monday denounced ongoing property destruction and violence targeting officers in light of a first-degree assault charge filed last week against a 19-year-old Kirkland man who is accused of striking an officer in the head with an aluminum baseball bat.
The officer was hit hard enough in the back of the head on Sept. 26 to crack his protective helmet, which likely saved his life, Diaz said in a news conference at Seattle police headquarters.
“This is not protest. This is not civil disobedience. This is violence,” he said, adding residents in certain neighborhoods are now too scared to go outside at night and business owners are frustrated by graffiti and windows that are repeatedly broken out.
For those who engage in property damage and violence, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) “will investigate and hold you accountable,” Diaz said.
Demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality have continued in Seattle nearly every day in the months after the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, with confrontations between police and protesters leading to injuries among both demonstrators and officers. SPD has faced criticism for its use of force against peaceful protesters.
In October, the protests have been small in size and continue to be mostly peaceful, with sporadic property damage reported. Police have made at least two dozen arrests during protests this month, for charges including property destruction, assault, failure to disperse, and rendering criminal assistance.
In discussing the first-degree assault charge filed Friday against Jacob Greenberg, Diaz said the 19-year-old expressed remorse in a text message to a friend — not that he struck the officer, but that the officer was wearing a helmet. Greenberg was booked Friday on charges of first-degree assault, first-degree attempted arson, and first-degree reckless burning and remains at the King County Jail in lieu of $750,000 bail.
He also quoted another Greenberg text included in charging documents, in which Greenberg is accused of writing that he wanted to slit the throats of all SPD officers.
“All SPD officers deserve to be safe on the job, too,” said the interim chief. “We’re focused on trying to stop some of the violence that’s going on.”
Diaz said he’s committed to ensuring officers are equipped with protective gear and the department is getting goggles to protect officers from laser lights amid reports of lasers being shined into their eyes.
Diaz also addressed the departure of 39 Seattle police officers in September alone, and said those departures came about as a result of conversations in the city about defunding the police department. Many of them weren’t sure whether they would be laid off, so applied for positions with other area law-enforcement agencies, he said.
“Right now, we’re keeping our department as whole as possible,” said Diaz. “We don’t want to focus on nightly demonstrations.”
So far this year, police have collected 2,400 shell casings and taken 820 guns off the streets, with officers on pace to recover more than 1,000 firearms by the end of 2020, said Diaz, noting the number of shootings in the city are at their highest level in 11 years. He also said the city has seen an increase in homicides, which according to Seattle Times data has exceeded 40 homicides for the first time in recent memory.