A man who was allegedly assaulted by two former Seattle firefighters and a woman as he sat on a memorial to fallen firefighters in March said he was shocked when he came under attack.
Simon McDonald, 33, of Tacoma, told jurors Thursday he was wrapped in a blanket, eating a donated dinner while sprawling under a portion of the Seattle Fallen Firefighters Memorial, when he heard the angry voices of the defendants.
Not knowing the anger was directed at him, he was stunned when his food was kicked from his hands, he told jurors in Seattle Municipal Court during the first day of testimony in the trial of former firefighters Scott Bullene, 46, and Robert Howell, 47, and Bullene’s girlfriend, Mia Jarvinen, 38.
He identified the person who kicked him, and his food from his hands, as Jarvinen.
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The Seattle City Attorney’s Office has charged Jarvinen, Bullene and Howell with fourth-degree assault and malicious harassment, the state’s version of a hate crime.
Assistant City Attorney Danielle Malcolm said in her opening statement that the trio “worked together to assault people they believed to be homeless and that’s why the city is charging the defendants with assault and malicious harassment.”
Attorneys for the firefighters portrayed their clients as people who had spent their entire careers caring for others, including the homeless. They said the defendants had gotten caught up in an unfortunate, complex and confusing fracas that left one of them injured.
Attorney David Allen, who is representing Bullene, who suffered knife wounds, said his client was a victim.
Police and prosecutors allege that Bullene was cut after he took a walking stick from a 54-year-old homeless man with a prosthetic leg and began beating him with it.
According to police reports, the assault on McDonald drew the attention of others who were in the park, including Stephen Cassidy, the man with the stick, who tried to come to McDonald’s aid.
According to charging documents, the defendants were walking through Pioneer Square after attending a Seattle Sounders game at CenturyLink Field on March 15 when they saw a homeless man resting on the Fallen Firefighters Memorial.
Witnesses told police that when Howell, Bullene and Jarvinen saw the man, they became enraged.
Assistant City Attorney Joseph Everett said in court documents that Jarvinen allegedly told police that she “pays taxes” and that she was “sick of it.”
McDonald said on the stand Thursday that he heard yelling but did not know it was aimed at him until the food was kicked from his hands. He said Jarvinen then kicked him in the head.
He also said the three defendants returned to the park two more times. The first time, Bullene retrieved his firefighter’s scarf that had fallen during the scuffle, McDonald said.
The second time, he saw Bullene wrestling with Cassidy for his stick and then striking Cassidy with it. But McDonald testified that he did not see how that interaction began.
The incident was initially reported by Howell, who called police from McCoy’s Firehouse Bar & Grill and said he was “suddenly attacked by some unknown person for some unknown reason,” court documents say.
Howell described his attacker as a “black male in his 30s wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and bluejeans,” according to the police report.
Officers — who noted in their report that the three defendants seemed intoxicated — said they heard a different story from several witnesses when they went out to investigate from people who described Howell, Bullene and Jarvinen as the assailants, according to court documents.
The trial, which is being heard by a jury of six, plus two alternates, is expected to last about two weeks.
The Seattle Fire Department said both Howell and Bullene were terminated in August.
If convicted, Bullene, Howell and Jarvinen each face a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 364 days in jail, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
Christine Clarridge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8983. Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.