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Seattle freeway encampments to be cleared as rock throwing incidents bring surveillance flights, arrests

A small surveillance plane buzzed large circles around Capitol Hill and the Central District early Thursday morning as crews prepared to remove encampments above the I-90 and I-5 interchange area in the core of Seattle after weeks of rock and debris throwing incidents freeway endangering motorists.

The continued surveillance and camp removal follows the East Precinct’s arrest Tuesday of a man for throwing rocks at cars just before rush hour near the eastbound onramp to I-90 from Rainier Ave S. The arrest is one of at least five the King County Prosecutor’s office says have been taken into custody in recent weeks for the bizarre and dangerous acts. A sixth person was taken into custody but released, officials say, after the Washington State Patrol determined the suspect “was not the person they thought he was.”

Tuesday’s incident required an “help the officer” alert to be issued as police sped to the scene as the suspect began fighting during his arrest by WSP. Seattle Police says “a loaded 9mm magazine” fell from the man’s waistband as he was being apprehended. The area and nearby encampments were searched but a weapon was not located.

Thursday, encampments near the freeway interchange area — the northern edge of the area referred to as “The Jungle” — are scheduled to be swept in an emergency action involving the state and city crews.

“The debris and rock-throwing in proximity to specific encampments off of I-90 and I-5 is a public safety threat that we take very seriously and must be addressed immediately,” the Washington State Department of Transportation said in a statement

While some of those detained were reported to be living in nearby encampments, it’s not clear that everyone arrested so far in the incidents is associated with the camps.

Nicholas Sousa was arrested July 10th after a witness identified him as a rock thrower. Prosecutors say he was caught with bolt cutters and pruning shears and had gone through a fence to enter restricted WSDOT property along the freeway:

Sousa, 35, has been charged with reckless endangerment, malicious mischief, and trespass.

The surveillance flights, meanwhile, have continued including Thursday night’s circling beginning around 2 AM and continuing through the night. The Washington State Patrol said last month it was using the reconnaissance to identify suspects in an ongoing string of people throwing rocks and debris onto area freeways. Flights have continued including a session early Tuesday by a special Pierce County Sheriff’s plan procured through a Homeland Security Grant and outfitted with technology including “Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) camera, satellite street-overlay mapping system, video recorder and real-time video down-link capabilities.” Pierce County says its aircraft is used to assist “local, state, and federal agencies with Search and Rescue (SAR) missions, counter drug efforts, radio communications support, surveillance, aerial photograph, patrol operations and other requests for assistance by various governmental agencies.”

Other flights are conducted by WSP aircraft including Plane N305DK, the Cessna that became infamous during CHOP for droning on and on around the city. CHS reported here earlier this year on video procured through public disclosure requests that showed the surveillance capabilities of the aircraft, the only plane capable of this type of video surveillance in the WSP fleet that is deployed across the state as needed. “It depends on where there are issues. And where it is needed most,” a WSP spokesperson told CHS last summer.

We’ll check in with WSP to find out if the flights will end now that arrests have been made and the camps near the area are being cleared.


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Moving Soon
Moving Soon
8 days ago

This is a very terrible situation, very sad. This is a very trauma filled time for our society. I can’t imagine it now but one day the tide will have turned. Sadly, so many will have been lost. This is just like the wildfires raging through the forests. Humanity is burning.

Guesty
Guesty
8 days ago

Hard to believe it took this long for any real action – did they think the unhinged “campers” would just decide on their own to stop throwing rocks at cars? Give me a break. Instead, we get hand wringing and weepy narrative. Finally someone living in reality realized maybe the creeps should be removed.

Anyone with a shred of logic could have told you where the rocks were coming from.

Very fortunate nobody has been killed by these assholes.

ClaireWithTheHair
ClaireWithTheHair
8 days ago

Three days ago I was told that small planes flying over Capitol Hill was literally the worst thing in the world. Is that only when the Recall Sawant campaign does it?

CD Neighbor
CD Neighbor
8 days ago

At least the Recall Sawant plane was flying during the day…. the flights to catch the rock throwers have been mostly in the wee hours of the morning 2 – 4am ish…

Moving Soon
Moving Soon
7 days ago

Yet, it was a witness that foiled the latest rock thrower. Not the expensive and almost always fruitless efforts of law enforcement.

Michael Calkins
Michael Calkins
8 days ago

Seattle’s leadership is one big disappointment.

McCloud
McCloud
8 days ago

Would you prefer the overpass rock throwing to continue unabated, or…?

Moving Soon
Moving Soon
7 days ago
Reply to  McCloud

I think the point would be we need to figure out or demand some system that works. If government is meant to be helping aid public safety why is it almost always witnesses or bystandards that are the first to respond or tip off law enforcement.

Barb
Barb
7 days ago
Reply to  Moving Soon

Uh because witnesses are by definition there when it happens?

Moving Soon
Moving Soon
7 days ago
Reply to  Barb

Wouldn’t you expect the government agency specifically charged with resolving the situation with millions of dollars and airplanes and thousands of employees that have been trained through thousands of hours of expensive education to have figured it out before a random guy?

If this was a package that hadn’t shown up on time people would be demanding a refund.

CD Neighbor
CD Neighbor
8 days ago

Saw someone ranting on next door about how there was no evidence that the rock throwing had anything to do with any homeless encampment and about how there wasn’t even one within a 1/3 mile of Rainier and I-90…. Which apparently, had it even been true (there were people right on the overlook the last time I walked through there, which wasn’t too long ago and also right along the pedestrian walkway in various places too), would also have somehow been way to far to walk for one of them to be throwing stuff on the highway…

Well neighbor – I have a big juicy crow here for your dining pleasure.

Franklin McDaniels
Franklin McDaniels
1 day ago

Good to hear they caught someone. That encampment looked super dangerous – surprised no one fell from that spot.