“Nobody showed up”: 911 calls bring no response after break in at auto shop near Capitol Hill protest zone

SEATTLE — Capitol Hill auto shop, Car Tender, says it was broken into overnight by protesters in the “CHOP” or “CHAZ” area Sunday night. A suspect tried to start a fire and stole cash, as well as car keys.

The business owner, John McDermott, says he and his son managed to detain the suspect – but despite more than a dozen 911 calls, police and fire never showed up.

McDermott said he got a call Sunday after the suspect smashed a window and got inside his business.

“Broke into the building, set fire to the front counter,” McDermott said.

He and his son said the suspect put hand sanitizer all over a cassette tape, pulled out the film, and put hand sanitizer all over it as well as the counter – then lit it all on fire.

McDermott said they walked in right after the fire was lit and managed to quickly snuff it out.

His son, Mason McDermott, said he saw the suspect taking off from the south side of the building.

“I chased him down and a s soon as I came face to face, he came at me so I put him on the ground,” Mason McDermott said. He said he had the suspect pinned while his dad repeatedly called 911.

“At some point he tried to cut me with a box cutter,” Mason said. He pointed to a large rip on his jeans from where the knife cut just his pants.

McDermott said he kept trying to call 911

“I'm told 19 times,” he said. “They alluded they were sending someone… finally said they weren’t going to send somebody,” McDermott said.

“I don’t know what to expect next. If you can’t call the police department, you can’t call the fire department to respond, what do you have?” McDermott said. “Heartbroken. I mean, they are the cavalry,” he said.

He said while they had the suspect detained, protesters rushed over and demanded they let the suspect go.

“It was either that, or they were coming over and it was going to turn into mayhem beyond mayhem,” McDermott said.

Still – protesters knocked over their fence and rushed inside the lot at Car Tender. Multiple videos on YouTube and Twitter show that moment. Some protesters rush up to McDermott while others try to hold them back and get them off the property.

McDermott said by that time, they’d already let the suspect go.

Later, video from ShawnGui on Twitch shows protesters speaking with the owner.

“Sorry about the break in,” someone said.

McDermott said protesters were armed and so was his son. He said they never pointed any firearms at the suspect they detained or the protesters.

And they’re grateful no one got seriously hurt.

“It could've really gotten out of hand,” he said.

They say they largely agree with the core message of the protests.

“The goal was to make the changes,” McDermott said.

“My heart is sad with all these people. I think there's a problem that needs to be addressed,” Mason said.

But they said with no first responders coming after more than a dozen 911 calls -- that is unacceptable.

“Nobody showed up when literally our lives are on the line,” Mason said. “I think the mayor and governor need to get their act together- because this is beyond a protest,” he said.

Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins stopped by the business late Monday morning to speak with the McDermott. He said they need clearance from SPD to respond inside the CHAZ/ CHOP zone, but should’ve been able to respond to Car Trader, which is outside the zone. He said the fire department is looking into why no one responded.

KIRO7’s Deedee Sun asked the Seattle Police Department about why they never responded.

They replied in an email: “Seattle Police did respond to the incident last night and documented the incident on a report. The case number is #2020-188030. Due to limited staffing, we are unable to provide you with a redacted copy of the narrative.”

The business owner said he never spoke with or saw an officer. Multiple others at the scene said they never saw SPD either.

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