After watching violence escalate at Westlake Park this past summer, Joseph Crudo says he wasn’t surprised that someone was attacked and robbed by a 13-year-old boy.
He’s just surprised he was the victim.
Crudo, 26, a concierge/security guard for the Seaboard residential and office building at the south end of the park, was outside leaning against a pillar around 7 p.m. on July 18 when he saw a man being pickpocketed.
The man was sitting on a wall watching two women fight in front of him while a third woman dug around in his backpack, Crudo said.
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“I shouted to him: ‘Hey man, look at your backpack,’ ” he said Wednesday.
The three women, who Crudo believes were running a pickpocketing scam together, approached him and started yelling.
“They were in my face,” he said. “They tried to grab my phone when I tried to call police, and as they were yelling, one of them pushed me.
“Then the 13-year-old kid — he must have seen an opportunity, me being a victim — and he put his right hand in my back pocket and tried to grab my wallet.”
As Crudo turned to face the 13-year-old, he was knocked over by someone else, he said.
“Then kids and adults from all over the park came over and just beat me up,” he said.
A park ranger witnessed the attack and saw the 13-year-old kicking Crudo in the head, according to Seattle police and King County prosecutors. The group scattered when the ranger approached. Crudo suffered a broken arm and nose, a concussion and knee injury in the attack.
The 13-year-old was charged on Wednesday in King County Juvenile Court with first-degree robbery in connection with the attack on Crudo and with theft and two counts of fourth-degree assault in another attack in the park a month later.
Crudo, of Shoreline, has been working at the Seaboard for about three years while he studies psychology at Seattle University. He said he’s seen a steady increase in the amount of violence and conflict at the park since he first took his post.
‘You’ll see people sitting here drinking and getting stoned all day and then get into fights as night rolls around,” he said. “The police will be standing there, watching, but they won’t do anything unless there’s a felony.”
“I’ve had officers say they won’t step in because they don’t want to be accused of violating someone’s civil rights,” he said.
Seattle police could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
In an August letter sent to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and members of the Seattle City Council, William Mackay — a resident of the Seaboard building and president of Friends of Westlake — urged officials to permanently assign police officers to Westlake Park, citing the attack on Crudo. According to the letter, a gang of 20 to 30 young people have taken over the southern section of the park, where they remain all day with their dogs and possessions, selling and smoking marijuana.
“The city has always thrown temporary police resources at the problem, but as soon as the extra police presence is inevitably withdrawn, the gang returns. This scenario is no longer working. This gang is more determined and much more violent than in the past,” Mackay wrote.
In response to complaints about violence downtown, McGinn has proposed funding for an additional 15 police officers and the city has assigned rangers to parks.
In the second incident involving the 13-year-old, prosecutors allege the boy and a friend attacked three skateboarders after one of the skaters fell down in front of them.
The 13-year-old knocked a phone from one victim’s hand and then began kicking him in the head before turning his attention to another skater, whom he also is alleged to have kicked multiple times, the charging documents say. Prosecutors say the 13-year-old and his friend stole $50 from one of the victim’s backpacks.
The 13-year-old pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Wednesday on the charges and is being held at the King County Juvenile Detention Center. The Seattle Times is not naming the youth because he has been charged as a juvenile.
Deputy Prosecutor Jimmy Hung said the teen does not appear to have a previous criminal history.
Crudo said he has watched the boy all summer at Westlake Park. “He was here all day, playing craps, or picking the pocket of someone who was being victimized. That’s his thing,” Crudo said.
Crudo attended the boy’s Wednesday arraignment.
“When the prosecutors said the victim was in the courtroom, the kid turned around and looked at me and we locked eyes,” Crudo said. “All I could see was pure anger. I hate to say this, but I’m not sure if rehabilitation will work in his case.”
Christine Clarridge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8983.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.