Two young men were charged with felony assault after police say they attacked a disabled 73-year-old man on his way to do Thanksgiving grocery shopping.
Both the victim and witnesses told police that during the assault the suspects cursed at him. “They called him b****, as well as racial slurs,” Detective Donna Stangeland wrote in a probable cause document. “They also called him a derogatory term for gay males.”
The incident happened about 1:30 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving at the Safeway store at 12318 15th Ave. N.E. The 73-year-old parked in a disabled spot and was walking with a cane when witnesses said one of the suspects threw a chicken bone in his direction and nearly hit him.
“Nice,” the man said. “Thanks.”
Police said one of the suspects, Ridwan Ahmed Jama, 18, hit the victim in the back of the head hard enough to give him a headache.
Seconds after that hit, the other suspect, Peter Kariuki -- who investigators said threw the chicken bone -- picked up a plastic advertising sandwich board and threw it at the victim, striking him, Stangeland wrote.
The sandwich board, which was estimated to weigh 15-20 pounds, hit the 73-year-old on the leg he uses the cane for, police said. Kariuki is clearly captured on video surveillance throwing the sandwich board, Stangeland wrote.
A witness told police the disabled man did nothing to provoke the attack, and described the racist slurs yelled during the incident.
The 73-year-old went to an urgent care clinic after the incident and told police his leg “was swollen and extremely painful from the impact of the sandwich board,” Stangeland wrote. “He said that the pain has continued and that his injury is getting worse.”
Court documents indicate the man has a pre-existing health condition that makes him susceptible to complications from the injury, and photos with the charging documents show significant bruising and swelling.
He made multiple doctor visits, told police his leg was so painful he was unable to wear long pants. Though he normally has issues with leg swelling, police said the injury has caused more swelling – and his doctor is concerned about infection.
A Safeway employee who said she witnessed the incident gave police the license plate of a Subaru the suspects left in, and police believe a 17-year-old girl was driving. Police contacted the girl’s mother, and her husband later referred Stangeland to their daughter’s attorney. Police do not believe she was involved in the alleged assault, and she is not facing charges.
Police said Kariuki, 20, had multiple contacts with police, and a Seattle officer was familiar with Jama, known as RJ. Stangeland said Kariuki’s parents also identified their son and Jama.
When officers arrived at Jama’s home, he fled out the back and escaped despite a K-9 track and foot pursuit, Stangeland wrote.
Both the 73-year-old man and the witness who described the racist slurs picked out a filler photo from a lineup instead of the photo of Jama. The 73-year-old identified a photo of Kariuki as the man who assaulted him.
Both remained at large on Nov. 30, the day Stangeland completed her probable cause document.
Jama and Kariuki were charged with third-degree assault on Monday, Dec. 3. Jama does not appear to be in King County Jail, but Kariuki was booked there the afternoon of Dec. 1, held with a $75,000 bail amount.
Kariuki and Jama have an arraignment hearing, where they are expected to enter a plea, at 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 17 in King County Superior Court.
A police spokesman did not elaborate on the racial slurs or the derogatory term for gay males that the witness said were used. Stangeland is out of the office until January, and inquiries typically go through department spokespeople.
Washington has a hate crime statute, malicious harassment, which makes it a crime to assault people because of a perception of the victim’s race, color, sexual orientation or physical handicap, among other traits.
In some cases, prosecutors believe they have enough evidence for a malicious harassment conviction. In other cases -- even when police say and victims believe a crime was motivated by race -- prosecutors can determine a case does not meet filing and disposition standards.
The decision for a hate crime charge is made on a case-by-case basis. To see the filing and disposition standards, go to page 135 of this document from Satterberg’s criminal division.
"The State filed the most appropriate charge based on the evidence presented at the time of filing," Dan Katzer, a spokesman for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, said in a statement about this case. "The State alleged an aggravating circumstance based on the victim’s vulnerable status, which, if proven, allows the Court to sentence the defendant to an exceptional sentence above the standard range."
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