Highline School District security officer charged with assault www.privateofficer.com
King County prosecutors contend Greg F. Seth – a former Seattle police officer employed by the district for the past 15 years – accosted the 5-foot-tall boy at Chinook Middle School on Feb. 1.
The boy, not Seth, was arrested immediately following the incident after Seth claimed the boy pushed past him. Nearly two months passed before the district filed a formal police report.
Seth was placed on administrative leave sometime after the incident and has since been fired, a Highline School District spokeswoman said Wednesday.
According to charging documents, Seth, 64, and an administrator at the SeaTac middle school were interviewing the boy about a theft the day of the incident. Seth put his hand on the boy’s shoulder as he was leaving the administrator’s office, and the boy shrugged it off.
Seth – standing a foot taller than the boy, and outweighing him by about 100 pounds –then grabbed the boy from behind, wrapped an arm around his neck and nearly lifted him off the ground, King County Sheriff’s Detective Timothy Gillette told the court.
“Boy don’t you ever touch me,” Seth yelled, according to charging documents. “I will take you down, I will hurt you, you understand me?
“Don’t you ever touch me, I will hurt you.”
The boy was able to say “I can’t breathe,” but little else during the 5 to 15 seconds Seth held him in a headlock, the detective told the court.
The administrator later told investigators the boy’s face turned purple, then blue, as Seth held him in the chokehold, according to charging documents. Standing on tiptoes, the boy was drooling uncontrollably.
Though the incident was witnessed by the administrator and overheard by another executive at the school, a formal police report wasn’t filed with the King County Sheriff’s Office until nearly two months later on March 27.
Speaking Wednesday, Highline School District spokeswoman Catherine Carbone Rogers said a school resource officer – a King County deputy assigned to the SeaTac Police Department – was notified the day of the incident.
“SeaTac police were involved from day one,” Carbone Rogers said.
The spokeswoman failed to note that the school resource officer was initially told that the boy had assaulted Seth.
According to the officer’s report, Seth demanded that the boy be arrested. Believing Seth, the resource officer handcuffed the crying boy before releasing him after she determined Seth had not been assaulted.
“The security officer told me he wanted me to arrest the student because the student had pushed past him,” the deputy wrote in her report, according to a Sheriff’s Office spokesman. “No one told me that Security Officer Seth had the student in a neck hold.”
“The officer did not have the whole story,” Sgt. John Urquhart said. “The security officer was saying he was assaulted by the student. There was no indication to the (school resource officer) at the time that it was the other way around.”
The school administrator who witnessed the incident spoke with the deputy later in the day and said Seth had placed the student in a headlock, Urquhart continued. The deputy did not file a report at the time because the school was investigating.
No photographs were taken of the boy’s neck immediately after the incident. The boy and other witnesses told investigators his neck was bruised.
According to charging documents, Seth called the school administrator at her home a week after the alleged assault in an apparent attempt to cover up the incident.
The administrator later told investigators Seth said he was being removed from Chinook Middle School before attempting to coach her on what to say to investigators.
“He went on to state several times that all he did was ‘grab (the boy) and put him back in the chair, right?’” Gillette told the court, recounting a statement from the administrator. “She did not reply to this but said she was sorry all of this happened. …
“Because he stated this several times, she felt that Seth was trying to tell her what to say if and when she was questioned about this.”
The following day, a school resource officer told her Seth said he would “get her” if she “lied” to investigators, the detective continued. The administrator was concerned and obtained a restraining order against Seth.
Writing the court, Gillette suggested Seth should be charged with witness tampering for the alleged call to the school administrator and second-degree assault, a felony carrying a three-to-six-month jail sentence. State law allows for such a charge when an offender restricts another person’s breathing through strangulation.
Prosecutors have charged Seth with fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor.
“After reviewing the case, we filed the fourth-degree assault charge based on the evidence gathered to this point,” said Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff to Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.
“The amendment of charges is always possible in a criminal case as the investigation continues, including the possibility of a higher assault charge and witness tampering.”
Seth, an Everett resident, has not been jailed in the case