Repeat criminal with violent history charged with two random Seattle attacks

SEATTLE — A 41-year-old man was charged in King County Superior Court in an alleged assault on a woman who was visiting Seattle for the first time on a business trip.

The incident is alleged to have happened around 3 p.m. on April 24 at Freeway Park.

In charging documents, police said as the woman was walking around the park Ryan Eugene Johnston, 41, muttered something under his breath and struck her in the face with an open palm.

According to police, the woman fell to the ground, a laceration formed on her face and she began bleeding heavily.

Officers on the scene took down a suspect description from the woman and said they believed the suspect was Johnston based on his history of violence and that the tent he was living in was near where the attack took place.

The victim was taken to Virginia Mason Hospital, where she received a significant number of stitches, police said.

Officers later presented a photo montage of potential suspects and said the victim identified Johnston as the suspect.

Police said less than 24 hours after the attack, Johnston was taken into custody for a previous assault that left another victim hospitalized.

The previous assault is alleged to have happened around 8:30 a.m. March 30 outside the Seattle Public Library.

Police said Johnston brutally attacked a man who was gathering his belongings and was preparing to leave the area.

As a result of the attack, police said the victim suffered a fractured skull and large subdural hematoma that caused his brain to swell.

“His eyes were swollen shut, and he had a breathing tube in place to breathe for him. A large portion of the right side of his skull was removed for several days after the attack due to the swelling on his brain,” prosecutors wrote in charging documents.

Police said they were able to identify Johnston as the assailant in the attack.

Johnston was booked into the King County Jail, where he remains in lieu of a $200,000 bail.

Johnston was charged with first-degree assault in connection with the attack outside the library and was charged with second-degree assault in connection with the attack at Freeway Park.

His arraignment, where he will enter a plea, is expected later this year.

Johnston, who has no ties to the area, an extensive criminal history including arrests in Idaho, Oregon, Alaska and Montana. He has multiple assault convictions, and his history also includes criminal trespass, DUI, malicious mischief, forgery and harassment.

Last year the American Pharmacists Association sent a scathing letter to Seattle leaders, expressing concern about the homeless problem, and the impact on the safety of their attendees.

Visit Seattle said that conference came and went in March no problems.

And the Washington Convention Center said the attack on the woman is the first it can think of where a conference goer was attacked.

“I would hope people don't hear of this type of incident and be fearful of coming to downtown Seattle because I don't think that this sort of thing happens all the time,” Seattle resident Amanda Cavataio said.

The convention center said so far it’s noticed no impact to business, and have not had any conferences cancel because of safety concerns.

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