The Washington Attorney General’s Office has placed a senior criminal investigator on paid administrative leave while it investigates an incident at a Tacoma restaurant in which a server said the man made a scene and stiffed her on her tip for wearing a Black Lives Matter button.
Cloyd Steiger, a former Seattle police homicide detective and now the chief criminal investigator for the AG’s Homicide Investigation Tracking System (HITS), was placed on leave Tuesday after the AG’s office Human Resources Department “initiated an investigation into his conduct,” said Dan Jackson, a spokesman for Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Steiger, 61, declined to comment. His attorney, Steven Fogg, said Steiger was cooperating with the investigation and “deeply regrets what happened.”
The incident occurred Sunday afternoon at The Fish Peddler restaurant when Reese Vincent seated Steiger and the woman with him on the restaurant patio. She served them drinks and calamari, she said, and noted they seemed “standoffish.” The man, she said, seemed anxious to leave and asked to be cashed out after a single round of drinks.
Vincent, 20, who declined to be interviewed but confirmed an account of the incident she posted on Facebook, where she is known as “Reese Jacqulene,” noted that she and some other staffers at the restaurant wear BLM buttons.
“I feel it’s important to show where I stand with that sort of issue as a white person, and it’s great way to have a very informed conversation with my customers,” she wrote.
Vincent said Steiger pulled out his wallet to get his credit card and she noticed it bore “the American flag symbol with the blue line through the middle.
“I KNEW it was all downhill from there,” she wrote.
She described a “Thin Blue Line” flag, which has been adopted as a symbol for solidarity with law enforcement, although some see it as a symbol of white supremacy and institutional racism.
Vincent said she was respectful, and cashed them out. She said she went into the back for about five minutes, and when she came back out “another one of my tables is urgent to leave, the whole dining room looks uncomfortable, and my co-workers are just in COMPLETE shock.
“This gentleman felt the need to walk into the restaurant and scream at who he thought was our manager, getting in his face, telling us he’s a ‘regular’ and he’s shocked to see us wearing these,” Vincent said. “He then proceeded to flip us off, write a nasty note on my slip, and leave.”
Steiger had scrawled on the $46.74 receipt — which bears his name — “BLM Button = No Tip” and “That’s How Socialism Works.”
Lacy Ogan, a spokeswoman for Pacific Seafood, which owns and operates the restaurant, said the company doesn’t “have any additional details to share.”
Vincent, who lives in Puyallup, said she was willing to let the incident pass until Steiger posted a copy of the receipt on his own Facebook page, something Fogg said his client “really regrets having done.”
Steiger, who also writes true-crime books and consults, retired in 2016 after a 36-year career with SPD, the last 22 of those as a homicide detective.
In Steiger’s defense, Fogg said Steiger has been a tenacious and dedicated homicide investigator for decades, and that residents of “both the city of Seattle and the state of Washington should be grateful for his years of service.”
Fogg described Steiger as “blue to the bone,” with two sons working as police officers in Seattle, including one stationed at the East Precinct, which has been the focal point of many of the BLM protests and where police say dozens of officers have been injured.
“His concerns for them as a parent, his worries about the dangers they have been facing, I think is understandable,” Fogg said. “What happened the other day is he got into a situation where his emotions got the better of him, and he’s sorry about that.”
Earlier this year, the city of Seattle settled for $300,000 a lawsuit filed against Steiger and two other SPD detectives over the 2011 arrest of Jack Daniel McCullough, a former Washington police officer accused in the sensational 1957 abduction and murder of Maria Ridulph in Illinois — one of the country’s most baffling cold cases.
McCullough was arrested in Seattle in 2011 and convicted by a judge of the crime in 2012, however a review of the conviction by a new prosecutor concluded McCullough could not have committed the homicide and he was exonerated.
Steiger gained public attention in the late 1990s when he turned in and testified against his ex-partner, Earl “Sonny” Davis, for stealing — then returning — at least $11,400 from the belongings of 84-year-old Bodegard Mitchell, a Black man fatally shot on Oct. 1, 1996, in South Seattle.