SEATTLE, WA – The City of Seattle has filed a countersuit against a Seattle newspaper over a civil case regarding public records law, where the Seattle-based newspaper originally filed the lawsuit against the city for mishandling public records requests for public officials’ text messages from the summer of 2020.
— WashingtonCOG (@WashingtonCOG) July 13, 2021
Back in June, the Seattle Times filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle alleging that “the city of Seattle mishandled requests from reporters for officials’ text messages during a tumultuous period last summer when police abandoned the East Precinct and used tear gas on protesters,” according to the outlet’s own reporting on the filed suit.
Apparently, the lawsuit is connected to a whistleblower investigation that found Mayor Durkan’s office violated state public records laws when handling various requests for records after it was discovered that Mayor Durkan’s text messages from late August of 2019 to late June of 2020 were missing.
These texts are quite important to those seeking the records requests, as they happen to cover a period of time quite relevant to Seattle and Mayor Durkan – the period of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone/Capitol Hill Organized Protest, a.k.a., CHAZ/CHOP.
And apparently, these text messages weren’t retained.
The Seattle Times has sued the city of Seattle for mishandling requests from reporters for officials’ text messages during a tumultuous period last summer when police abandoned the East Precinct and tear gassed protesters https://t.co/jml7h2u2dO
— Lewis Kamb (@lewiskamb) June 4, 2021
It was discovered that one of Durkan’s city-issued cellphones was set to delete texts after 30 days, which violates state laws on record retention as text messages from officials are to be kept on hand for at least two years before getting archived.
What makes the matter more complicated was that Mayor Durkan’s legal counsel, Michelle Chen, was said to have engaged in “improper governmental action” with how she handled records requests in light of the missing text messages, according to a Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission investigation report.
Chen had apparently told records officers to not inform anyone requesting records that Mayor Durkan’s text messages were missing and to instead provide requesters with “re-created” text exchanges from the cell phones of city employees that Mayor Durkan had texted with.
The original public records officer whistleblower Stacy Irwin, and a colleague identified as Kimberly Ferreiro, were responsible for triggering the events that led to the SEEC investigation.
Both Irwin and Ferreiro have resigned from their roles, saying they felt forced to following alleged hostility and retaliation they faced after shedding light on the public records law violations.
In a July 2nd letter sent to the SEEC executive director, Wayne Barnett, from Mayor Durkan, the Seattle mayor reportedly acknowledged that “the underlying actions fell short” of the city’s requirements to adhere to state public records laws and that “no government should be looking to narrowly apply the law.”
City of Seattle countersues newspaper in public records case https://t.co/2lkKMMR0SE
— Mike Prince (@bamalonghair) July 16, 2021
In short, the SEEC investigation saw the records requests were approached lawfully, Mayor Durkan agreed to that notion in her July 2nd letter, but now the city is countersuing the Seattle Times newspaper in response to the newspaper’s lawsuit alleging what’s already been discovered.
The City of Seattle, in their response to the suit filed against them, claims that the lawsuit “fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted”, that the “plaintiff’s claims are unripe”, and that the “plaintiff lacks standing.”
And the counterclaim filed by the city against the newspaper also seeks that the lawsuit be dropped against them and that the newspaper pays for the city’s legal costs:
“The City requests that the Court dismiss the Complaint with prejudice and without awarding any relief to Plaintiff, and that the Court award the City the costs, expenses, and attorney’s fees incurred in this lawsuit, in addition to any other available relief that the Court may deem equitable, just, and proper.”
It is certainly a bold legal strategy by the City of Seattle, time will tell whether or not the countersuit will work.
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In other news that relates to the fallout of the CHAZ/CHOP era in Seattle, the man accused of fatally shooting Horace Lorenzo Anderson near the former CHOP area was arrested earlier in July.
We at Law Enforcement Today reported on this update regarding the case that shed much needed light on the issues that plagued Seattle last summer.
Here’s that previous report.
SEATTLE, WA- On Monday, July 12th, U.S. Marshals arrested a 19-year-old who is suspected of shooting and killing Horace Lorenzo Anderson near Seattle’s former “CHOP” Zone in June 2020.
SPD and US Marshals arrested a 19-year-old man today in Des Moines, WA in connection with a fatal June 20, 2020 shooting in the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.” Suspect has been booked into King County Jail. More details as they become available.
— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) July 12, 2021
According to authorities, the suspect, Marcel Long, was wanted by the Seattle Police Department (SPD) for first-degree murder. Long was arrested while walking in Des Moines. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office reportedly filed the charges against Long back in August 2020.
The charging documents stated that Long was seen on surveillance video approaching Anderson and pulled out a gun. He is then seen chasing Anderson, who ran away, and appears to shoot him. A day after the shooting, Long was identified as the suspected shooter.
However, detectives stated that he immediately fled the state. The charging documents stated:
“The defendant’s willingness to fire his weapon around crowds of people, in his effort to kill Lorenzo, demonstrates the severe danger to the community and risk of harm to others. His immediate flight also demonstrates his desire to avoid being held accountable for this crime.”
Reportedly, during their investigation, members of the Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force learned that Long was staying at an apartment complex in Des Moines.
Long was found walking along South 216the Street near 14th Avenue. He led law enforcement on a brief foot chase before being taken into custody. Long was booked into the King County jail with a bail set at $2 million.
Police are seeking information on the whereabouts of Marcel Long, 18. Prosecutors have filed charges against Long for fatally shooting a 19-year-old man near the CHOP on June 20th: https://t.co/JfSVZDaoiY pic.twitter.com/v0rwTPSMND
— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) August 6, 2020
Attorney Evan Oshan, who represents the estate of Anderson and his father, issued the following statement:
“We are grateful for law enforcement efforts for brining Long in. We do not feel like justice will be served solely by bringing him into custody. Justice will not be served until the parties involved in the Chop Zone fiasco have been brought to justice.
On behalf of Lorenzo’s estate and Horace Anderson [Lorezno’s father], we are committed to getting to the core of why this black, special needs 19 year old was left to die and bleed out on June 20th, 2020.”
“This was a preventable and predictable death that occurred, we are holding city officials as well as the admin responsible. Including but not limited to, Mayor Jenny Durkan, various members of the Seattle city council, and others. Horace thanks god and all the law enforcement members involved in bringing Long in.”
Richard Craig, Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal, said in a statement:
“The U.S. Marshals Service and its task force partners will not tolerate such violence in our communities. We are committed to ensuring that dangerous fugitives are brought before the court. It is my sincere hope that this arrest brings some sense of calm to the community.”
Seattle Police & US Marshals arrested a suspect in connection with the fatal shooting of a black teen in the former Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). The BLM-Antifa occupation last year resulted in multiple shootings & homicides of black people. https://t.co/ZzZWIU80B4
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) July 13, 2021
Anderson was one of two teens killed in the armed occupation zone of Seattle on June 20th, 2020. Self-appointed activist “medics” took Anderson by private vehicle to Harborview Medical Center where he later died.
First responders were unable to enter the area because violent occupiers would not allow Seattle police officers to enter the crime scene in order to secure it for medics to render life-saving assistance.
There have still been no other arrests in the four other shootings that occurred in the CHOP zone, including the one that killed a 16-year-old and critically injured a 14-year-old.
Back in June of 2021, the father of the slain teen was also the victim of a shooting in Seattle’s White Center neighborhood. Luckily, he survived, despite being shot in the face.
Dad of teen slain in CHOP now a shooting victim himself: 'I'm glad to be alive' https://t.co/1d5s8m125E
— Jonathan Choe Journalist KOMO News (@choeshow) June 13, 2021
On June 11th, 51-year-old Horace Lorenzo Anderson was in the area of 16th Avenue SW shortly before 4:00 p.m. when gunfire started going off. Anderson and one other were wounded, while two others were fatally shot during the incident.
Anderson spoke with a local news outlet a day after the shooting, saying he doesn’t know what prompted the gunfire or who the assailants were targeting:
“I got shot in the face (and) my jaw is broke so it’s hurting right now. I don’t even know who it was (but) I’m just glad to be alive. But they were shooting others.”
Witnesses to the June 11th shooting noted that it was a generally chaotic scene, rife with confusion as to where the shots were coming from specifically.
Investigators from the King County Sheriff’s Office noted that they are actively reviewing surveillance footage and are trying to track down the suspects involved in the shooting.
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