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In year marked by deadly hate crimes, SPD says will ‘err on the side of caution’ on bias

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 11.15.25 AMIn a year with two of the most horrendous hate crime incidents in the city’s history, Seattle Police officials provided their annual update on bias crime to the City Council Monday morning.

Assistant Chief Nick Metz told the council that directives at SPD have shifted to “err on the side of caution.”

“If somebody says they believe an action is biased related, we’re going to act on that,” Metz said.

The annual number of reported, investigated bias crimes in the city is relatively low compared to other types of assaults or threats.

In the East Precinct covering Capitol Hill, SPD says there have been 10 incidents investigated in the area with the majority of those happening in Pike/Pine.

CHS has mapped nine of the ten 2014 reports below. A tenth occurred in recent weeks in an incident at R Place that has not yet been widely reported. In that incident, Metz said a “young man” threatened patrons at the club, making “some threats” and “made gestures he had gun.” “Our officers immediately responded and made an arrest,” Metz said. UPDATE: More details on the arrest have been added to the end of this post.

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Also speaking at Monday’s briefing, Lt. Michael Kebba said “the public can protect itself from being victims by being vigilant.” and suggested walking in groups and to “drink in moderation.” He also suggested people not “engage in dialogue” with harassment suspects and instead call 911.

Community activist Shaun Knittel also spoke at Monday’s briefing saying his Social Outreach Seattle group is trying to get the word out that Seattle Police is “completely transparent” and ready to work with LGBTQ victims. He pointed to this summer’s “safety fair” in Cal Anderson as one example of trying to create a better connection between the gay community and SPD. Still, he said, he’s troubled by changes in the neighborhood in the past two years.

“It’s not safe after dark on the Hill,” Knittel said.

A look at the totals across Seattle shows that 2014 bias crimes are not isolated to Capitol Hill and downtown:

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SPD’s report on Monday also showed that less than half of its 2014 bias investigations so far have involved LGBTQ or trans victims:Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.53.45 AM

Metz and the council members both recalled the horrific crimes involving hate motives that have set a dark background for progress on anti-bias policing this year in Seattle.

Seattle Police say “extremist beliefs” drove Ali Brown to shoot to death two men he met while out at R Place as part of a nationwide crime and murder spree. Meanwhile, Musab Masmari was sentenced to 10 years for the New Year’s arson at Neighbours nightclub. While prosecutors and police say Masmari was clearly driven by anti-gay motivations, the case was not prosecuted as a hate crime and isn’t included in the bias investigations documented Monday.

Monday’s briefing was part of a broader update on Seattle policing and crime trends. CHS will have more on the latest numbers soon.

UPDATE: Here are details of the most recent bias-related arrest from SPD’s report on an early Saturday incident at R Place:

Officers arrested a man early Saturday for making threatening statements after he was denied entry to a Capitol Hill bar.

Witnesses said the intoxicated 28-year-old suspect was prevented from entering the night club, located in the 1500 Block of Broadway, shortly after midnight. He then became upset and reportedly said “all white people should die” and “all gay people would be killed.” The suspect also pantomimed he had a gun and reached toward his waistband before walking away.

Police quickly located the suspect near the club. They did not find a gun, but arrested the man and booked him into King County Jail for investigation of malicious harassment.

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