A fight outside a Pioneer Square nightclub early yesterday landed Seahawks free safety Ken Hamlin at Harborview Medical Center with head injuries, and his season is in jeopardy.

Share story

A fight outside a Pioneer Square nightclub early yesterday landed Seahawks free safety Ken Hamlin at Harborview Medical Center with head injuries, and his season is in jeopardy.

Hamlin was in serious but stable condition with a small blood clot on the left side of his brain and bruising of the brain tissue, said Dr. Stan Herring, a Seahawks team physician. Hamlin has a skull fracture that appeared to have been caused by being struck in the head with a blunt object. He also has a broken right hand, believed to be the result of a punch he threw.

The blood clot is of most concern, Herring said, and Hamlin will be monitored for at least two days to make sure there is no neurological damage. If Hamlin’s early recovery goes well, he could be discharged this week.

Meanwhile, detectives are looking into whether the shooting death of a man whose body was discovered early yesterday near Seward Park is connected to the Pioneer Square brawl, police spokesman Rich Pruitt said.

The man found dead near the park was identified by the King County Medical Examiner’s office as Terrell D. Milam, 31. Milam died after being shot several times.

This afternoon police said they are still working leads on Milam’s death, but had not yet established a clear connection between Milam and the Pioneer Square brawl.

Pruitt would say only that investigators had heard “rumors” of a link between the two cases.

The fight took place on the same block along First Avenue South as the widely publicized assault of two men by a trio of attackers on July 31. That video sparked outrage because the two victims were veterans of the Iraqi war who were badly beaten by several men while another man videotaped.

Part of the Hamlin incident was caught on a surveillance tape, which was broadcast by several Seattle television stations last night.

Accounts of yesterday’s assault differ.

Although Hamlin’s girlfriend says he did not start it, Larry Culp, the owner of Larry’s Nightclub, where the fight took place, said Hamlin was the aggressor.

“We just could not get him calmed down,” Culp said. “We tried for five, maybe 10 minutes.”

Culp said several Seahawks, including Hamlin, were in the bar celebrating their 42-10 win Sunday night over Houston.

A large crowd began moving out of the bar after last call at 1:30 a.m. As he left the club, Hamlin apparently exchanged words with another man.

According to a statement by Hamlin’s girlfriend to Seattle police, the 6-foot-2, 209-pound Hamlin put his hand on the man’s back and said, “Excuse me.”

Culp said the other man, who is being sought by police – described in the police report as a black male in his early 30s, 6. foot 4 and 215 pounds – interpreted the gesture as a shove and a shouting match broke out.

“It just went on and on,” Culp said. “This other guy was trying to be cool. He kept saying, ‘It’s cool … it’s all right,’ but Hamlin wasn’t having any of it.”

Twice, Culp’s security guards shot pepper spray on the ground to disperse the crowd, Culp said.

At one point, a security guard detained Hamlin, but he broke free and chased the other man down, the surveillance video shows.

A few minutes later, it appeared the men had settled. The other man turned away, Culp said, “and I thought they were going in different directions.

“Then, ‘Pow!’ Hamlin turns around and just clocks the guy.”

Culp said Hamlin was walking away when the man he’d just slugged pulled a magnetic street sign off a pole and chased Hamlin down, striking him in the head.

That version differs from the police report. The witness identified as Hamlin’s girlfriend said that after Hamlin punched the first man, another man approached and struck Hamlin with his right forearm, knocking Hamlin to the ground. Then the two men involved in the altercations with Hamlin began squabbling with others in the crowd, the report says.

After that, according to other witnesses in the police report, one of the two men picked up a sign and hit Hamlin with it twice while Hamlin was on the ground.

When police responded just after 2 a.m., they found Hamlin on the ground at the intersection of First Avenue South and South Main Street.

Hamlin told an officer that he had severe pain in his head, neck and chest.

Asked if he knew what happened, Hamlin told police he didn’t remember. He was treated by the Seattle Fire Department, then taken by ambulance to Harborview’s intensive-care unit.

Police searched unsuccessfully for the suspects. A criminal investigation is under way.

Hamlin is expected to miss at least the next several weeks of football, and his entire season depends on the severity of his injuries.

“Ken is awake intermittently and talking to us,” said Herring, the team physician. “There’s no evidence of severe brain injury in that regard. We need more time to see if there are residual problems from the bruising of his brain.”

Hamlin was alert yesterday. He had to be awakened several times and seemed confused, Herring said, but Hamlin knows where he is and knows his family is coming to see him.

Hamlin, known for his hard-hitting playing style and nicknamed “The Hammer,” was in on five tackles in the Seahawks’ victory Sunday night.

“His spirits are good considering the situation,” Seahawks President Tim Ruskell said in a statement released by the team. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Ken and his family.”

Hamlin, a leader of the defense and one of the team’s more popular players, spoke to coach Mike Holmgren by phone about 7:30 yesterday morning and said he was sorry about the incident, Holmgren said.

“You have to be careful once you become a ‘celebrity,’. ” Holmgren said. He told the team early yesterday afternoon about what had happened to Hamlin.

“There’s more responsibility that comes with that. . .We have to keep going. If Ken could pipe in on the conversation to the whole team, he’d say that. ‘Keep going. When I heal up, I’ll be back.’ So that’s what we do.”

Teammates plan to visit Hamlin at the hospital this week. Marcus Trufant, whose locker-room stall is next to Hamlin’s, said the whole team was concerned about Hamlin’s health and hopes for a speedy recovery.

Seattle Police Sgt. Deanna Nollette said after-hours fights and general rowdiness in Pioneer Square have been a problem, although she cautioned that this and the July 31 incident might make matters seem worse than they are.

Still, the city has targeted the area for a “joint assessment” operation by police, fire inspectors and liquor law-enforcement agents.

“One of the things we’ll be looking at is, are there specific problems at certain clubs?” Nollette said.

Hamlin has a history of alcohol troubles, although the police report on the beating states that he “did not appear intoxicated” at the scene.

While playing for Arkansas, Hamlin was arrested for drunk driving three times and convicted twice. He left the Razorbacks as a junior and was drafted by the Seahawks in the second round in April 2003. At the time, general manager Bob Ferguson said the team was hypersensitive to the questions of his character.

“We’re not going to be making decisions on players like this very often, if at all,” he told The Times in June 2003. But a review of Hamlin’s background satisfied Fergeson that Hamlin was sincerely trying to better himself.

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com.

Times reporter Jennifer Sullivan contributed to this report.