• Why did SPD spokesmen not release info about Ballard homeless rape case? Here's the answer

    By: Casey McNerthney

    Updated:

    A homeless man was arrested Monday morning after police say he raped a woman at random at the Carter Volkswagen dealership in Ballard.

    But police did not post about it on their website or social media accounts the day of the arrest, and spokespeople for police and the King County Prosecutor’s office did not provide detailed information about the incident until Wednesday -- two days later -- when the suspect, Christopher Teel, had a scheduled court hearing.

    Why not?

    “The answer is the victim gets this much added time to deal with the trauma they went through,” Seattle police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said. 

    He learned about the incident on Monday, but decided not to release it because there was not a suspect at large.

    “This is a very violent and sensitive crime, and the privacy of the victim is paramount,” Whitcomb said.

    The incident happened hours before the city council voted on a head tax to address Seattle’s growing homeless problem. Asked if there was any directive from other departments to withhold the information -- the mayor’s office, city council or otherwise -- Whitcomb said no. 

    “That had absolutely nothing to do with it.” 

    Whitcomb said the decision of when to release information to the public in sexual assault cases is done on a case-by-case basis.

    In the recent Ballard rape investigation, the suspect was in custody the morning of the incident. Whitcomb, who decided not to make a public post about the case, said he believed the victim’s identity would be in jeopardy.

    Specific details about the incident – including the victim’s initials, birthdate, and specifics about the Teel -- were released Wednesday in the probable cause document, which is a public document. 

    Some, but not all details from probable cause documents are routinely reported in the news. KIRO 7 does not typically identify sexual assault victims.

    Whitcomb said that if there had been different circumstance in the Ballard case, such as a wanted suspect, police would have released the information immediately Monday. 

    “Knowing that the suspect was in custody and not going to be released influenced the decision not to advertise that he had sexually assaulted a woman,” Whitcomb said.  

    Follow this link to read additional details about the Ballard rape investigation.


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