Police are reviewing security video from Harvey’s Lounge to determine what happened during the Sunday encounter involving two African- American siblings and people outside the Highway 99 tavern.
The claims are unsettling: Two teenage siblings, taking photographs along Highway 99 in Edmonds on Sunday for a school project, encountered a group that included a bat-wielding bully hurling racial insults outside a neighborhood bar — an act of aggression allegedly sparked simply because of the color of the teens’ skin.
Now, Edmonds police are reviewing security videos and conducting interviews while they investigate a potential hate crime.
“The teenagers were in the parking lot of Harvey’s Lounge, where they say there were threats to harm or intimidate coupled with racial slurs,” Edmonds Police Sgt. Josh McClure said Tuesday. “Now, we’re just trying to determine what actually happened.”
Specifically, the teens — an 18-year-old man and his 14-year-old sister, both African Americans — reported they’d been threatened with a bat and called the N-word outside the bar in the 21100 block of Highway 99, McClure said.
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The teens’ mother, who reported the incident to police, did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday. She told the local website, My Edmonds News, that a person with a baseball bat outside the bar yelled at her children that “they didn’t want any n—— in here.”
When her kids returned home, “my daughter was in tears and my son had his head down, didn’t talk,” the woman is quoted as telling the news site. “My husband went outside to see if anyone was there, and I called 911.”
Edmonds police became aware of the incident about 9 p.m. Sunday, McClure said. A detective has since been investigating, and the department has shared information about the incident with the FBI, he said.
The detective also has interviewed multiple people and reviewed security video from the tavern, McClure said.
“On the video, there’s a group of people present in the parking lot,” McClure said. “The teenagers reported they heard these slurs and comments, and our detective is trying to figure out who it was who may have said them,” he said.
Police also have “verified that a baseball bat was present.” McClure said. “But, based on our review, it was never brought out and used in a threatening way. No one chased anyone with the bat or anything like that. But what we can’t tell from the video is what was said. That’s where the interviews come in.”
Alex Munday, the owner of Harvey’s Lounge, said Tuesday “police have asked me not to divulge anything … until the investigation is done, and they said that might take a couple of weeks.”
Munday, who said he wasn’t at the bar at the time of the alleged incident, added that he is fully cooperating with police and provided the detective with access to the tavern’s security-surveillance system to review footage.
“We absolutely do NOT tolerate racism,” Munday previously said in a posting to the tavern’s Facebook page Monday. “In the 7 plus years I have been here I don’t recall ever hearing a racial comment from customers or employee (sic).”
Mayor Dave Earling said he planned to read a brief statement addressing the alleged incident during Tuesday’s regular Edmonds City Council meeting, but he noted he was being careful not to speculate while the police are still investigating.
“I do wish to say that the city of Edmonds is an open and accepting community that does not tolerate the kind of repugnant behavior that is alleged in his incident,” he said.
The city of Edmonds’ Diversity Commission is scheduled to meet Wednesday evening and will be prepared to hear from any citizen who wants to talk about the alleged incident, said Patrick Doherty, the city’s economic-development and community-services director.
Doherty noted the all-volunteer commission has no investigative authority, but it can offer policy recommendations to city council members and provide “an outlet for people to come and discuss issues of inclusion and diversity.”
Such community discussions have occurred after past incidents, said Doherty, including after two black construction workers found a noose tied over a beam at an Edmonds construction site in November.
City police also investigated that incident, McClure said, but made no arrests and didn’t establish probable cause for a criminal case.
“But internally, there was some discipline taken” by the construction company, he said.