Security guards watch, fail to respond as teen is pummeled www.privateofficer.com
The beating last month of a 15-year-old girl in the transit tunnel at Westlake Center as security personnel watched without intervening is prompting a review of King County Metro’s policies for its unarmed guards.
The incident — which was partially captured on surveillance video — happened about 7:15 p.m. Jan. 28 and involved a large group of teens and young adults, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office. Another 15-year-old girl is allegedly the one who can be seen on the video assaulting the victim, kicking her head several times while she is on the pavement.
Two security guards stand over the victim while she’s being pummeled and do not intervene. At one point in the video, one guard is seen raising his arm toward the assailant, who ignores him.
The guards, who work under contract with Metro, are restricted from intervening in assaults.
“The events surrounding this incident are troubling, and the video images distressing,” Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond said in a news release Tuesday. “The county executive has ordered us to work with the Sheriff’s Office to review the circumstances surrounding this incident and seek advice from other security experts to determine whether we need to change our security protocols.”
The guards, who work for Olympic Security Services, provide security throughout the transit system.
According to the contract with Metro, guards with Olympic Security Services are instructed not to intervene when witnessing suspicious behavior or criminal activity, but to “observe and report” and radio the Metro Transit Control Center, which relays requests for assistance to the appropriate law-enforcement agencies.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, the guards called the tunnel communication center after the Jan. 28 assault.
In light of the assault, Metro is reviewing the restriction on physically intervening in fights or other criminal activity, Desmond said.
Asked if he thought the guards acted appropriately in light of the policy, Desmond said, “The whole thing, in terms of what happened with or without a sensational video, is very concerning and very disturbing to us. On the face of it, the security guards were following the letter of the policy. I certainly wish they had done something different. …
“We’re talking with Olympic and we’re going to change that policy,” he said.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, the incident began when a group of 10 teens surrounded the victim inside the downtown Macy’s, intending to rob her. One of the men threatened to kill her, the report said.
Police broke up that confrontation, but the group followed the victim and her friend into the bus tunnel, the report said.
The alleged assailant can be seen in the video shoving the victim into the bus lane, then continuing to beat her on the platform, pushing her to the ground and kicking her several times, including in the head.
While this was happening, other members of the group stole the girl’s purse, book bag, cellphone and iPod, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The video was obtained by KING-TV.
Two Seattle police officers arrived within minutes but the suspects had fled, said police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb. Metro Transit police arrived about five minutes after the assault and interviewed the security guards who had watched the assault, as well as witnesses.
According to Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart, the victim was not hospitalized but saw a doctor. Some of her hair was pulled out, and she had scratches and bruises and “is still very sore,” Urquhart said Tuesday night. The girl said she lost consciousness during the attack, the Sheriff’s Office said. She knew her assailant and others in the group, police said.
The Sheriff’s Office arrested the alleged assailant on Friday and booked her into the King County Youth Services Center for investigation of felony second-degree assault.
The alleged assailant’s mother said she has no idea what happened inside the bus tunnel. She said she hasn’t been allowed to talk to her daughter and that her daughter’s lawyer won’t return her calls.
“I’m worried about her,” the woman said. “I know she’s been in fights, but I don’t know what happened.”
Detectives arrested three more suspects on Saturday — two men, 18 and 20, and an 18-year-old woman from South Seattle. The Sheriff’s Office said they are suspected of assault, robbery and felony harassment.
A 17-year-old male suspect is still being sought.
Sound Transit also hires unarmed guards, from Securitas, to conduct fare enforcement and to patrol transit stations.
Securitas guards are to observe and report like the Metro guards, but Sound Transit and Securitas policies anticipate that on occasion, they’ll intervene:
“When faced with a clear and immediate threat of bodily harm, the Security Officer must always first consider retreating with any other people present to a secure position. When necessary to protect self and others from a clear and immediate threat of bodily harm, a Security Officer must use only the degree of force necessary to repel an attack or threat of an attack. Security Officers who improperly use or apply excessive force may be subject to disciplinary action and may be held criminally liable for their actions.”
Securitas guards have broken up fights, including at transit centers in Federal Way and Auburn, said Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray.
The private security guards are not empowered to make arrests, but they do have authority under state law to issue citations (currently a $124 fine) to suspected fare evaders. Sound Transit also employs an armed police force, made up of sheriff’s deputies.