by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:
TUKWILA, Wash. - Tukwila Police said nearly two-dozen families living and staying at the motels were questioned by police. People were detained if they had criminal histories or were involved in the operation, but others who were not involved were released. Some were taken to a nearby church for help with food and housing; some could not go there, because they were drunk, on drugs or had histories that include sex offenses that precluded them from being around families. Witnesses say that the operation started around 6
a.m., when they began hearing and seeing federal agents execute the raid.
Sulayman Kebbay said he heard loud booms.
"'Open the door, open the door, boom boom!' Just like that," he said.
Kebbay said he saw officers going door to door at the Travelers Choice motel from his porch overlooking it.
"They said, 'Everybody come out with your hands up! and they kept saying that this is the U.S. marshals," Marisol Espinoza said. Neighbor Marisol Espinoza told her 8-year-old daughter to stay inside.
"People [were] screaming like, 'What did I do? What did I do?'" she said. "They said, 'Just be quiet.' They put their handcuffs on."
Witness told KIRO 7 that police brought in some surveillance cameras less than an hour before the raid.
Espinoza said she saw what appeared be undercover officers driving around the neighborhood in unmarked cars, taking photos, and talking on radios Monday evening.
Police said 22 families were forced out of the hotels, including some with children.
Crews boarded up the hotels and boxed up belongings, including stuffed animals, clothing and furniture.
KIRO 7 spoke exclusively with a woman who did temporary work at the Travelers Choice motel and claims employees cracked down on any illegal activity.
Authorities said they found three bodies in the past four years at the motel with items that included syringes or other evidence of drug use. The most recent was found at the beginning of this month.
"When I find out whatever's not right inside the motel ... ," Milo Matu said.
"Which is what, prostitution or drugs or both?" KIRO 7 asked.
"Yeah, something like that- - because if I notice somebody keep coming in and out then we kick them out," she said.
Matu said she was surprised the owners of the motels were arrested and said "they're not bad people."