King County to examine growing attacks on jurors, employees near courthouse

SEATTLE — King County leaders, judges, and other employees are raising concerns about growing attacks on people outside the King County courthouse, with judges calling the violence an urgent and escalating problem.

A public meeting with King County councilmembers, the King County sheriff, judges and others is being held about the issue at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

King County Sheriff John Urquhart will testify in front of the King County Government and Oversight Committee about the attacks and the possibility of bringing in deputies on overtime to help provide more foot patrols, at a cost of as much as $10,000 a month.

In addition to a juror who was brutally attacked in May, KIRO 7 has discovered another juror was assaulted outside the courthouse in June. She said she was coming back from lunch when a man pushed her against a wall, hit her in the chest, broke her coffee cup, then stood over her before running away.

Sirens have become commonplace on Third Avenue outside the courthouse.

“Honestly, I come down here very rarely for that reason,” Seattle resident Corinne Romano said.

Shouting is common as well.

“Even when we were waiting just now, we saw random people shouting,” said Amy Lam, who works in the area.

Frustrations and concerns have been growing.

In a Facebook post, Superior Court Judge Sean O’Donnell asked, “Is 3rd Avenue, between Jefferson and James Streets, safe in Seattle?” He described “open air drug deals, assaults, robberies, people defecating and urinating on the streets,” adding, “I've worked at the Courthouse on 3rd and James in Seattle for 15 years, and I've never seen conditions worse.”

KIRO 7 also learned in the month of June, a court employee was shoved walking across Third Street, a witness in a trial was harassed, and there were several other incidents with court employees being physically assaulted or being the victims of indecent exposure.



“I don’t know what the city should do, but it’s probably gotten to the point where (they) should do something,” Lam said.

After the juror was attacked in May, Seattle police said it was increasing its police presence in the area.

Det. Patrick Michaud said SPD has maintained that presence. He said their numbers around the courthouse do not show an increase in crime or reflect the recent assault on a female juror. He stressed the importance of reports being filed with police.

“If they see something that does concern them or they believe is a crime, we need them to call us immediately so that we can track that and go, OK, it does appear to be going up in the area. Soso we can then put more officers in to this area.”

KIRO 7 reached out to courthouse staff to find out how they report crimes to SPD.

SPD’s online data shows 13 assaults on the courthouse’s block in June, down from 15 assaults in May. Assaults were in the single digits in previous months in 2017.

Michaud said SPD is looking at assaults on the courthouse’s side of Third Avenue instead of both sides, to prepare for Tuesday's meeting.

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