Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Olympia Community Speaks to City Council About Police Shooting of Two Men


Above: Outside Olympia City Hall tonight, many expressed their support for Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin and their families.
By Janine Unsoeld
The Thursday night police shooting of two young African American men, Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin, has created an unprecedented outpouring of emotions, perspectives and demands that were heard this evening at tonight's council meeting at Olympia City Hall.  
“We need to take this wake up call very seriously and not sleep through it,” Neil Peck said as he concluded his comments in front of Olympia city councilmembers and the community tonight.
Peck lives 100 yards from where he heard the shots fired by Olympia police officer Ryan Donald last Thursday. Peck was the speaker who provided an account of what he heard that night at a community gathering that same evening at Temple Beth Hatfiloh.
Peck was the first of over 30 passionate, articulate speakers tonight who voiced their feelings, perspectives, and concerns to council members. The council dispensed with most of the evening’s agenda to accommodate the speakers, who spoke for about two hours straight. An overflow crowd sat in chairs and on the floor in the lobby, watching and listening to speakers on television monitors.
Several facilitators with the Thurston County Dispute Resolution Center met with individuals and groups as needed to record their thoughts. Regional television news staff and cameras stayed for most of the evening.
Above: Neil Peck speaks to the Olympia City Council tonight. He lives 100 yards from where Office Ryan Donald shot two men, and heard the shots.  
 
“….I don’t want Olympia to be one of those places where young black men get shot…where people just shrug it off….This needs to be a wake up call for Olympia…for our police…for all of us….I know the investigation is just getting started…but I don’t think we need to wait to say that this is simply the wrong outcome….,” said Peck.
Five speakers later, it was local attorney Jim Johnson who made the audience collectively gasp when he announced that, as a neighbor of Peck’s, he too heard the shots, but neither he nor Peck have been interviewed by the police.
“I’m Jim Johnson. I’m a witness. I live on the corner of Langridge and Cooper Point. My wife heard the first four shots. She woke me up. We checked on our kids. She called the police and she was on the phone with the police when the next three shots rang out. She and I debated about whether it was three or four. I was standing next to her when I heard the next four shots. That, those last four shots, I was able to count. You talk about being open and all this stuff, it’s like, nobody’s even said how many shots were fired. And there are witnesses who know how many shots were fired. Mr. Peck heard them. His wife heard them. I heard them. My wife heard them. My name was in the paper. My wife was on King 5. Mr. Peck spoke at the Thursday night gathering. None of us have been interviewed by the police. None of us have been interviewed by the police. That undermines the credibility of the investigation. I know you guys aren’t in charge, I know you’re not in charge, but somebody hearing this better straighten that out, because if this investigation is going to have any credibility, it has to have credibility in the people, and if there are witnesses around – I live – I had to talk to police officers to leave my house three times that day because they were blocking the road and nobody asked me my name, nobody asked me whether I had heard or seen anything, they’re not asking the witnesses anything….”
Regarding the purchase and use of body cameras, Johnson said he has advised a state agency on the legalities of recordings in public contexts.
“….I know the complexities of the area. This is not hard. This is not expensive. You just need to do it. I looked on Amazon. You can get a body camera for $46.18…and it will be here Thursday….(cheers were heard from the lobby at this point)…You need to buy body cameras, you need to require their use, you need to have discipline in place so that if officers don’t turn them on when they should, they’ll get in trouble….”
Regarding the potential lawsuits that may arise from the shootings, Johnson said, “….This is going to cost the City of Olympia an amazing amount of money. Body cameras are cheap.”
Mayor Stephen Buxbaum said that there will be many more opportunities for the community to express its thoughts about the topics discussed this evening.
Councilmember Nathaniel Jones agreed.
“We don't need to wait to begin the healing. Tonight's comments are part of that...I think we'll be mending for some time....”
One local non-profit, Media Island, will be hosting a meeting on Monday, June 1, 7:00 p.m., at 816 Adams Street SE, Olympia to discuss the formation of a police accountability civilian review board. For more information, call (360) 352-8526 or email mediaisland@gmail.com.
Above: Local attorney Jim Johnson provides his account to Olympia city council members of what he heard Thursday night during the police shooting of two men. He said he has not yet been interviewed by police.
 
Little Hollywood will continue to provide more information about this evening as time allows.
For more information about the Olympia Police Department and this case, including an account of the community meeting at Temple Beth Hatfiloh, go to past articles on Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com, and use the search button to type in key words.
Olympia City Council meetings are televised by Thurston Community Television. Go to the City of Olympia website for more information at www.olympiawa.gov.

Port of Olympia Schedules Interviews for District #3 Commissioner


According to a news release from the Port of Olympia, the public is invited to attend the interviews for the District #3 Commissioner position. No public comment will be taken at the meetings.
Commissioners George L. Barner, Jr. and Bill McGregor will interview all applicants on June 1 and 2, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Tumwater Town Center, 7241 Cleanwater Drive SW.
District #3 Commissioner Interview Schedule:
June 1, 2015
1:00 pm – E.J. Zita
1:40 pm – Dick Pust
2:20 pm – Break (10 min.)
2:30 pm – Bob Jones
3:10 pm – Michelle Morris
June 2, 2015
1:00 pm – Larry Goodman
1:40 pm – Fred Finn
2:20 pm – Break (10 min.)
2:30 pm – Jerry Farmer
3:10 pm – George Sharp
For more information, please contact Jeri Sevier, jeris@portolympia.com, (360) 528-8003.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015


By Janine Unsoeld


Above: U.S. Congressman Denny Heck (WA-10) cuddles 14 month old Rosie after she successfully ripped off his eyeglasses following today’s Memorial Day service in the Capitol Rotunda in Olympia. At right is Rosie’s mother, Tia Myers, Olympia, an Army veteran and newcomer to the South Sound area. Welcome Tia and Rosie!

 
Above: Remembering the Fallen at the Washington State Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Capitol Campus. 
 

“We Don’t Win What We Don’t Fight For” Say Three City Council Candidates



Above: Olympia City Council Candidates Marco Rosaire Rossi, Ray Guerra, Rafael Ruiz and their campaign manager Rob Richards, far right, this morning in front of Olympia City Hall.
By Janine Unsoeld

Three candidates for Olympia City Council held a rally this morning outside Olympia City Hall to highlight their campaigns and progressive issues.
Although the candidates are united, and emphasize that they are not running against particular incumbents or individuals, Marco Rosaire Rossi, Raymond Guerra, and Rafael Ruiz are indeed running separate, active campaigns.
“We don’t win for what we don’t fight for,” is their slogan. While all are articulate and educated, each has their own individual strengths, stories and perspectives.
Above: Rossi listens to a potential supporter this morning. Port Commissioner candidate E.J. Zita, left, also attended this morning's rally.
Marco Rosaire Rossi, 33, is in the race for Mayor, along with incumbent Cheryl Selby and candidate Prophet Atlantis. A medical assistant at Planned Parenthood, Rossi graduated in 2004 from The Evergreen State College, has earned two master’s degrees, and has lived in Olympia off and on for 15 years.  
“I think Olympia is a good city, but good isn’t good enough – we want to make Olympia a great city!” Rossi said. He listed his priorities: create a day shelter, create a tenant Bill of Rights for both residents and small businesses, encourage up not out urban density and investment in urban planning, make the city budget process more inclusive and create new forms of government and participation.
“We want you to be the city! We’re building a social movement – it’s about the issues! We’re going to make you a priority!” he exclaimed.
Ray Guerra, 38, is running for Position 2, along with candidates Judy Bardin and Jessica Bateman. Guerra said he grew up in Florida in severe poverty. His single mother regularly worked two service level jobs, and died at the age of 38 of high blood pressure brought on by stress.
A bartender at Fish Brewing Company, Guerra has lived in Olympia for 15 years, and is a homeowner in the Carlyon neighborhood area. His goal if elected is to raise the standard of living for Olympians, noting that service sector jobs have replaced manufacturing jobs.
“We want to promote local businesses that support their workers….Our city council can do more than reactively respond to local issues...we can be innovative, creative, and exceptional in our policy and our budgeting. Many of our citizens live in the harsh realities imposed by systemic poverty. We can and should address the challenges impacting the poor! People like to fear monger about a $15 minimum wage, but I like to think about the possibilities of what this new wage will achieve! If the three of us are elected, and we have one more progressive vote on the council, we can get a lot of shit done!” exclaimed Guerra.

Above: Olympia City Council Candidate Rafael Ruiz
Rafael Ruiz, 32, is running for Position 3, along with incumbent Nathaniel Jones. He has lived in Olympia for 10 years and works at the Olympia Food Coop. He is a former volunteer for the Emma Goldman Youth and Homeless Outreach Project (EGYHOP) that provides emergency supplies, services, and resources to the homeless and low-income populations living on the streets. Through that experience, he said he learned how to listen.
A single parent of two children, Ruiz grew up in Southern California, and told the crowd personal stories of how he did not feel safe. For Ruiz, this also means feeling the lack of food security. He now has a refrigerator full of food, but he has difficult childhood memories of opening the refrigerator and having it reveal only tortillas, milk, eggs, and beans.
He stressed that if elected, he will have the opportunity to fight for paid sick leave for low wage workers, policies that guarantee shelter, fight for people who rent, police accountability, and create disciplinary policies that reform, such as transformative justice models.
“Safety is really my priority,” said Ruiz.
“Trabajo duro para que mis niños tengan la comida más sana, y Mexicana.Trabajo duro para pagar la renta y las cuentas. En cada elección nunca veo candidata/os trabajadores. Yo soy tu candidato en solidaridad con todos trabajadores. Voy luchar para subir el salario mínimo por hora hasta $15. Voy luchar para mejorar los derechos en la ley para todos arrendataria/os en Olympia. Voy luchar para mejorar la vida para los pobres y sin casa propia. Voy luchar para establecer y facilitar la democracia directa. Vota Rafael Ruiz para un futuro brillante en Olympia. Rafa trabaja para ustedes!” dicho Ruiz.
“I work hard so that my kids can eat healthy and pass down my Mexican culture. I work hard to pay my bills and rent. In every election I hardly ever see working class candidates. I am your working class candidate in solidarity with all workers. I will fight for a $15 minimum wage. I will fight for tenants’ rights. I will fight against poverty and homelessness in Olympia. I will fight to establish direct and participatory democracy in Olympia. Vote Rafael Ruiz for a brighter future in Olympia. Rafa will work for you!” says Ruiz.
Rob Richards Finds A New Voice
The candidates’ campaign manager is Rob Richards, who spearheaded the Downtown Ambassador Program through the Capital Recovery Center for the past three years.
Richards says he was asked by many to run for city council, and he thought about it, but had to admit to himself that three solid years at the Ambassador Program, and three years serving on the city Planning Commission, working on the Shoreline Master Plan and the Comprehensive Plan burnt him out on process issues.
Richards was abruptly let go recently from his position with the program but is proud of his accomplishments and is only looking forward. Richards said he has created his own closure.
“I feel passionate about our community….It took baby steps to make the welcome center what it is now and it looks fantastic. Partnerships were formed with the business community, the Olympia Downtown Association, the Parking and Business Improvement Area, and the community. Although we’re not quite ready for a drop-in center, we’ve now created a model that works. This is just the beginning for a larger three to five year vision,” he said.
When asked by Rossi and Guerra to run their campaigns, he jumped at the opportunity.
“If creating a platform of progressive issues will engage and inspire more candidates who don’t have access to the process, then that’s great. We want to create a real voter’s guide, scorecards, and develop campaign services and do voter outreach and education,” said Richards.
Richards is looking for supporters for sign waving, house parties, and donations for yard signs. Richards and the candidates can be reached at www.olympiaforall.org. For the candidates, Richards can be reached at (360) 292-0565.
An opportunity to meet many candidates for city council and the Port of Olympia is scheduled for Wednesday, June 3, 7:00 p.m., at Garfield Elementary School. The event is co-sponsored by the Northwest Neighborhood Association and the Southwest Neighborhood Association. According to Northwest Neighborhood Association president Rip Hemingway, all but one have agreed to participate.
For information about local individual campaigns, go to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission at www.pds.wa.gov.

Above: Liz Atkins Pattenson and Madeline Weltchek support a $15 minimum wage in Olympia.
 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Stranger Reports Bullet Fired Into Nearby Home in Olympia Police Shooting of Two Men


City of Olympia - Police Guild Contract Ends December 2015

By Janine Unsoeld
According to an article by Ansel Herz posted May 22 in The Stranger, a Seattle publication, an Olympia police officer who shot two unarmed African American men also fired a bullet into a nearby home.  
Olympians Express Continued Shock, Anger, Concern
Conversations this weekend in most Olympia restaurants, coffee shops, homes, and social media sites continue to express a wide range of emotions about the shooting incident.
Reflecting the thoughts of many Olympians, many wonder why local corporate media has already seemingly moved on from the shooting.
Zoltan Grossman, a faculty member at The Evergreen State College, knows the young family whose window was said to have been shot out by the officer’s bullet and confirmed The Stranger's story for Little Hollywood.
“Why hasn't this angle been covered in the Olympia police shooting?  I know one of the young people who lives in the house that was struck by Officer Donald's bullet. The residents report that there were around 10 gunshots. I have seen other photos of the broken window on the second floor,” says Grossman.
Following the incident, Grossman says he wrote an email to The Olympian but has not yet heard back from the newspaper, and shared it with Little Hollywood:
“….You've covered every possible angle to support a pro-police point of view--the video from Safeway, the records of the victims, windows broken by protesters separate from the larger protests. But I haven't seen a word about the bullet breaking the upstairs window of an Olympia home, in what could amount to reckless endangerment by Officer Donald. The police themselves have recovered the bullet and interviewed the residents --why haven't you? It deserves a separate article and interviews with the residents,” wrote Grossman.
Wendy Tanowitz of Olympia spoke at a downtown community gathering last Thursday night at Temple Beth Hatfiloh.
Tanowitz has conducted much research into local and national law enforcement actions, and was asked by Little Hollywood today for more information.
“....I'm very concerned and hyper-sensitive to systemic and institutional abuse of power in all its forms….Many factors contribute to a culture of impunity among people who work in law enforcement, not the least of which is that they are almost never held accountable for their actions, and the criminal (in)justice system exists to protect and shield them from the legal consequences of shooting or killing someone,” she said.
In researching how many people are killed while in contact with police, Tanowitz learned that there is no national database where these figures are available. She says a grassroots-generated site exists at www.killedbypolice.net but it is incomplete.
That group estimates that 1,000 people were killed by police or while in police custody in 2014. Their Facebook page is:   https://www.facebook.com/KilledByPolice/posts/1026884260673044?_rdr
She said that the use of a Taser instead of a firearm and the officer calling for backup before he shot two men should have been considered.
“People who work in law enforcement should never take it upon themselves to act as judge, jury and executioner. Many hundreds of people - the number sometimes approaches 1,000 - are killed or injured in the United States each year by law enforcement who said they felt threatened. This must end. Police are hired to protect public safety and must held be accountable for their actions….There must have been other ways to have handled this situation short of using potentially deadly force. We need to know what happened Thursday morning in Olympia, but we have no video record. This can and should be remedied in the future by mandating that all Olympia police department officers wear body cameras.”
City of Olympia-Olympia Police Guild Contract
The three year contract between the City of Olympia and the Police Guild ends in December 2015, just in time for a new contract to mandate body cameras for the Olympia Police Department.
The January 1, 2013 - December 31, 2015 contract is located here: http://www.codepublishing.com/wa/olympia/mobile/?pg=labor/OlympiaLabor05.html
Although Article 22 of the contract details the use of dash-mounted video systems, it has not been implemented.
Related to a police incident involving local resident Scott Yoos, Tanowitz read the Police Guild contract and in an October 8, 2013 meeting of the Olympia City Council, she asked when the dash cameras would be installed.
In response, according to the minutes, Police Chief Ronnie Roberts addressed the council and the issues regarding record retention and additional staff needed to manage the large amount of data. He said body mics or cameras would also impact records requests.
In a vote of 6 – 1, the contract was approved at that meeting by Councilmembers Stephen Buxbaum, Nathaniel Jones, Jim Cooper, Julie Hankins, and Jeannine Roe. The only one who did not approve it was then-Councilmember Karen Rogers.
At the time, Mayor Buxbaum asked that a list of frequently asked questions regarding dash cameras be produced for the public and include the cost breakdown for records requests.
A search on the City of Olympia website, www.olympiawa.gov for that list brought up no results.
Future Police Accountability
The Olympia police department does not currently have a police auditor - the position was cut for budgetary reasons in 2009. The department has never had a citizen review panel, although there has been discussion about it.
In the past, a police auditor reported directly to the city council. The auditor, hired on an annual contract, reported on a quarterly basis, and conducted an internal affairs investigation, looking into use of force and other complaints.
In an interview with Little Hollywood in December 2014, Laura Wohl, who was then public information officer for the department said:
“It is very unusual for a department of our size to have a citizen review panel. If a citizen makes a complaint, a professional standards lieutenant does a complete investigation into policy and law. For some complaints, a dispute mediator is used, for example, if a complainant feels an officer was rude....it's different than any other employment situation. It's a full investigation when a complaint is made of any kind,” said Wohl.
“After the professional standards lieutenant makes his or her findings, it is reviewed by the commander and chief of police. If it is sustained, disciplinary action is taken. If somebody doesn't like the determination, and feels they have been harmed, they can make a claim with the city, or file a civil liability tort, and sue us.”
Little Hollywood has written many past stories about the Olympia Police Department, including the crisis intervention training of a police officer, police accountability, statistics on officer demographics regarding gender, race, and language diversity, the incident regarding Olympia resident Scott Yoos and more. For more information, go to www.janinelittlehollywood.blogspot.com and use the search button to type in key words.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Port of Olympia and ThurstonTalk: When “Journalism” Isn’t What It Seems


Little Hollywood Investigation Reveals Paid Contract

By Janine Unsoeld
When the Port of Olympia put out an article on May 5 by Kate Scriven for ThurstonTalk called, “Port of Olympia: Snapshot of Current Projects, Recent Changes, Plans for Future,” via the Port’s list serv, I read it. The public and the media are invited to subscribe to this list serv in order to keep up on Port activities.
The article was an interview with Port of Olympia executive director Ed Galligan and read like a one-sided industry puff piece, so I discredited it, but then, I became curious.
The next day, I wrote an email to Port staff and commissioners:
“I think it is very strange that the Port of Olympia would select this story written by a blog called ThurstonTalk to send out to those who have signed up to receive Port related information. My blog, Little Hollywood, has written many timely, well researched Port related stories worthy of sending out via this list. I am wondering how you determined that this story was more worthy for broader public dissemination than any of mine. What is your policy for selecting articles?”
Kathleen White, communications director for the Port, was prompted to respond to my inquiry on May 15 when Port Commissioner Bill McGregor sent me an email on May 14 wondering if I had received a response and what the answer was to my inquiry.
White’s answer revealed that the ThurstonTalk article was not just one-sided journalism, but was, in fact, a paid piece of marketing disguised as journalism, the product of a Port-ThurstonTalk contract signed on March 5.
“….In an effort to reach a broad local audience, the Port at its discretion chose to contract with ThurstonTalk for the writing and publishing of a select number of articles about the Port which can then be forwarded to the Port's email list,” White wrote Little Hollywood in an email May 15.
I immediately expressed confusion and responded that I was not aware of ThurstonTalk’s business model:
“…I heard that they pay their writers. That's all I know…. It sounds like they are a public relations firm that the Port contracted with to promote the Port, but it's made to look like independent journalism.  So, how much is the Port paying ThurstonTalk for this contract and what are the terms of that contract? I would also like to know what articles the Port is paying to be produced. Was the one sent out by Ed Galligan the first one? As you can imagine, I am very alarmed and disappointed that the Port wasn't more transparent about this when it sent out the article. Future articles from ThurstonTalk should contain a clear disclaimer, something like, “The following message from the Port of Olympia is a paid advertisement,” I wrote.
White responded that ThurstonTalk was hired by the Port of Olympia to produce four such “articles.” The article sent out May 5 as a “Message from Executive Director Ed Galligan” was the first article.
“Thank you for drawing the Port's attention to the need for a disclaimer on the article written and published by ThurstonTalk. Should the Port send out any future such articles, the Port will indicate that the article was paid for by the Port of Olympia,” wrote White.
White said that in 2015, the Port will pay $1200 per year for publication of all its news releases and $600 for the writing and publication of four articles about the Port, for a total of $1800. White said that the topics for the other three have not yet been determined. 
The Port's contract was signed on March 5 by White and Martin McElliott of ThurstonTalk.
According to its website, ThurstonTalk calls itself an “information source” serving the Thurston County community and was launched on January 1, 2011.
It says, “A vibrant community needs an information source that has the ability to interact with community members through multiple tools, while adding a meaningful advertising platform for local businesses.”
Asked to comment on its business model and how a discerning reader could know which articles are paid for, McElliott responded, “All of our writers are contractors.  Not all of our content is paid for by our sponsors.  Generally the articles that have a business logo attached are sponsored.  We write positive feel good stories and showcase why we all live work and play where we do,” said McElliott in an email today.
Generally?
The Port-ThurstonTalk contract says that their package includes all news releases by the Port, but when asked today after the Port’s work session, White said she wrote the May 20 press release about Olympia Beekeepers Association members installing hives in an Olympia Airport field that will be full of flowering blackberries this summer, and was not related to the ThurstonTalk contract.
According to the contract, ThurstonTalk features a variety of marketing and content packages ranging in monthly prices for articles from $150 to $3,100. For example, customer driven articles cost $500 per article, or $900 for six short posts. An event focused article is $450 per article.
Eight Port of Olympia Candidates To Be Interviewed For Commissioner Position
At today’s work session, Commissioners Barner and McGregor agreed to interview all eight candidates for the open commissioner position on June 1 and June 2 between 1 – 5 p.m. at Tumwater Town Center, 7241 Cleanwater Drive SW, Tumwater.  Each interview will last about 40 minutes.
One candidate, Bill Wells, asked the Port to withdraw his name from consideration.
Port commissioners George Barner and Bill McGregor are expected to reach a decision by June 10, but have until June 30 to do so.
Full Disclosure: Janine Unsoeld does not write any article for her blog, Little Hollywood, in exchange for payment. A small sidebar on her blog asks for donations if folks appreciate independent journalism and like what they are reading. Janine works fulltime as a caregiver for seniors and while she appreciates the donations she receives, it is safe to say that she writes what she is able to as a community service.
Janine is also under contract to write a book, “Legendary Locals of Olympia and South Puget Sound,” through Arcadia Publishing/History Press. The publishing company found her through her blog and felt she was qualified. No money will be exchanged as a result of this contract until actual books are sold. Due to the ridiculously low royalties one receives from writing, unless you are someone like a certain Ms. Rowling, it can safely be said that both this blog and the book project are labors of love.

Olympia Community Comes Together After Police Shooting of Two Men


Above: Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts gives an overview of the day's events regarding the shooting of two African American men at a forum tonight at Temple Beth Hatfiloh in downtown Olympia.

By Janine Unsoeld
Hundreds attended a public forum held tonight at Temple Beth Hatfiloh in downtown Olympia in response to the police shooting incident of two young African American men on Olympia’s westside early Thursday morning.
The forum provided an opportunity for community members to share their feelings about the incident and engage in dialogue. About 15 clergy members from various faith communities and City of Olympia officials, including Chief of Police Ronnie Roberts, Mayor Stephen Buxbaum and other councilmembers, and city staff were in attendance.
Over 30 speakers spoke for an hour and a half, voicing feelings of sorrow, fear, hurt, disappointment, anger and many other emotions. Reiko Callner, a local attorney, human rights activist, and member of the City of Olympia’s Civil Service Commission, facilitated the open mic session. Speakers had at least three minutes each to speak.
Rabbi Seth Goldstein welcomed everyone, saying that the purpose for the evening was to come together to hear diverse points of view in unity…with intention…open hearts, open hands, and prayers for peace, justice and healing.”
Speakers were eloquent, passionate, and spoke from the heart. Many called for an independent citizen advisory review board, police dashboard and body cameras, better training of police officers, and transparency and openness in the investigation process.
Below are some people’s thoughts:
“Police don’t get a chance to apologize because it would bring lawsuits like fleas on a dog…I wish we could include that without tearing them down…They’re just human….” said a man.
“I do support law enforcement…hindsight is 20/20, we all don’t know what happened last night…I believe we all need to stand together as a community…it’s sad when lives are lost and people are hurt….God be with us….” said a woman.
A man who heard the incident said, “This shooting incident happened about 100 yards from my house. I was awakened by the first three shots and…the shooting was all over in about 10 seconds. There were three quick, evenly spaced shots, then an interval of perhaps five to 10 seconds, and then four more shots again, evenly spaced. And, in between, I could hear shouting. I couldn’t hear voices or what was being said but there was audible shouting between the shots and after the shots. I certainly don’t know anything about the officer’s state of mind or to what degree he was threatened or felt threatened but I do feel that…there wouldn’t have been any time before that…it was swift and it was over. And, well, what that means to the investigation or anything, I don’t know. That is what happened, that is what I heard.” [Editor's Note, 5-22-2015: This reporter was in the back of the room. The man was questioning the police version of events. The ellipsis means the speaker went on to say more important information that I have not included here. This man's quote as included here is not to be used as fact in a court of law or to be used as evidence.]
A man said, “It was wrong to have those boys get shot, in my opinion…because they stole some beer….There’s a pattern going on in this country where the cops do these kinds of things and they walk away from it…and that bothers me a lot…The racial question cannot be avoided….It’s so clear…I don’t understand…I look at you (Ronnie Roberts) as the chief, what’s going on? People are getting shot, particularly black people and Hispanic people….This cannot be handed over to the police to investigate….”
Another man said, “My primary concern is that the process work for as many people as possible. The ideal process should find out the truth, a sense of fairness for all…and an outcome of compassion, justice, accountability…and a plan for moving forward….I want an investigative body besides Thurston County…I don’t know what that would look like…I am struggling with the issue of process going forward….”
A social worker said he is highly concerned that officers are not being held accountable when in his profession, he is held highly accountable to state standards.
One man admitted that he had shoplifted when he was young.
“…I was never in fear that I was going to be shot…I have one daughter who is perceived to be white, and one who is perceived to be black. I suspect that if they were caught shoplifting, they would be treated differently…I don’t trust the police after what I’ve seen in the last six months….” He lamented that he has not heard our local police say a word about the incidents that have occurred nationwide. '“Where are the police?'” he asked.
One woman said that she has felt sad all day, hearing helicopters over the westside neighborhoods all day.
“I watched the press conference and heard the tone of defensiveness (from the police) that maybe this officer was acting appropriately….That scares me that I live in a community that somebody can throw a can of beer and no one is saying, '“Wow, we made a mistake…a mistake was made…”' She expressed that there are too many police with military training.
“Military training is very different from community policing….What are we going to do to make sure this never happens again?” She said she was grateful that this gathering was happening and that, as a grandmother, she knows her blue eyed, Caucasian grandson is privileged, and her heart grieves for African American mothers who fear for the lives of their children.
One woman asked why a Taser couldn’t have been used instead, and expressed her support for the young men’s mother.
Another woman said, “Everyone is human, and racism is foundational to the creation of our country and continuation of systems of power….As a white person…I look at my own racism…It’s hard to sit through this stuff…As white folks we don’t know our own privilege, and we need to call it out, what’s happening.…(if we don’t) it’s the worst kind of racism….”
Another woman said, “I don’t trust the Sheriff’s Department to lead the investigation…listen to the audio recording….The militarization of police forces across the United States is a disease, and now we have this disease in Olympia….”
A man said, “….I have more questions than answers…a shift has occurred in me. I feel like I’m afraid of the police, and I’m not homeless, I’m not mentally ill, and I’m white. Why am I afraid? I don’t know. There is a disconnect and I don’t know how to fix it….”
One woman asked, “Why pursue in the first place? That started the whole sequence of events…What’s the outcome of this?”
A clergy member asked, “How will we heal? This is a good first step…Healing needs to be an intentional thing amongst the media and our community….”
Another clergy member asked, “….I wonder about a community that has trained its police and empowered people in the community to confront two people under suspicion by themselves without backup….”
A woman said she could pick out someone that she loves seated in every row. “We deserve better than this and we are better than this….”
A man who lives in the Goldcrest neighborhood said he was detoured this morning from his usual route to work and just got off work to attend the forum. “….This is hard to imagine in Olympia that unarmed people could be shot by police…I hope we’ll give benefit of the doubt as to motives until we know differently….I hope we’ll look at every way to learn from this….”
“I’m horrified this happened in Olympia…and it did….I have no faith that Thurston County officers are going to say it wasn’t a justified use of force…I want from the city council a clear and specific recognition that implicit racism is at play here…explain it, describe it, and hold people accountable for it…we are now a community that an officer shot two unarmed black boys….” said a woman.
A woman who identified herself as a member of the Christian community at The Evergreen State College said she is frustrated about the call to not rush to judge the police’s actions.
“What’s so frustrating is that these two black boys were not given the opportunity… to defend themselves….Black men are demonized…. I remember reading about...Officer Darren Wilson saying that Michael Brown was like a demon coming after him, and that’s how black lives are viewed…so I think it’s about more than body cams, although that’s a good start…I think it’s about how people with privilege and power choose to view…marginalized communities….What happened this morning is not an isolated incident….We need to model something different….”
A registered nurse with 20 years’ experience said that the young men deserve our prayers. “…Even if they recover, their spiritual and body wounds will be long….” She said the shooting was irresponsible in light of the national climate and oppression, and did not believe that race had nothing to do with the incident. “I don’t believe that…I’m the mother of a teenage boy who is light-skinned…I fear for his safety but I can’t imagine what it’s like for African American mothers who worry about their children….”
That woman’s son also spoke up, saying there is racial inequality at his school, eloquently closing by saying, “A color should not determine whether you live or you die….”
A woman who said she’s lived in Olympia for four years said, “I love Olympia…but I’m not surprised that something like this has happened in our community because people of color are harassed…We’re neck deep in right now….”
Another woman said, “If I accidently hit somebody with my car, I’m held accountable….Everybody is responsible for what they do….”
A clergy member said, “There’s one truth – love is greater than fear…As we embrace and resist fear that is out there and fight the fear and find the treasure of love, people will look at Olympia and say, 'We do things different here….'”
Another clergy member, Rev. Amy Walters, of First Christian Church, said, “I am troubled and hurt for our city but I’m going to leave here with some hope to continue to take steps forward to have dialog and we’ll work things out together – we are better – and clergy are committed to this process…While my heart is heavy, I’m going to leave with hope.”
For more information about the incident from the City of Olympia, including the 911 audio recording of the incident, go to www.olympiawa.gov
For previous articles about the City of Olympia Police Department on Little Hollywood, go www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and use the search button to type in key words.

Olympia Police Shoot Two African American Men

 
Above: Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts answers questions from the media and the community at a press conference in Olympia City Hall this morning about a police shooting of two African-American men early this morning in Olympia. Mayor Stephen Buxbaum, to his left, also addressed questions.


By Janine Unsoeld
Thurston County Critical Incident Team Investigating
A formal Olympia Police press release, below, was issued shortly after 7:00 a.m.:
“At about 1am this morning, Olympia Police responded to a call from the Westside Safeway store at 3215 Harrison Avenue West.  Store employees reported that two black men had attempted to steal beer and, when confronted by employees, threw the stolen items at them then fled.  As police investigated the matter, an officer found two men matching the suspect descriptions a short distance away.  A few minutes later, the officer notified dispatch that he had been involved in a shooting.  Two men were shot by the officer.  Preliminary reports indicate the men were both shot in the chest.  Both men were transported to St. Peter’s Hospital in critical condition.  Both men are in their twenties and believed to be from the Thurston County area.
The officer, who has been an officer for 3 years, has been put on administrative leave while the incident is investigated, following Olympia Police Department policy.  The Thurston County Critical Incident Team is investigating the shooting.  The Critical Incident Team is composed of detectives from five local agencies.
More details will be released as they are available.  An initial briefing for the media will be at 6am at the Olympia City Hall Council Chambers, 601 4th Ave E.  A second briefing is anticipated at 10am this morning.”
For more information, contact Paul Lower, Public Information Officer, 360.753.8410, plower@ci.olympia.wa.us

Press Conference
The 10:00 a.m. press conference in Olympia City Hall lasted about 40 minutes. Several regional television stations and reporters were present, as well as many city staff, Councilmember Cheryl Selby, and members of the public.
Mayor Stephen Buxbaum, City Manager Steve Hall, and Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts answered questions.
Mayor Buxbaum, when asked by a reporter why he was present, and whether or not he thinks this incident is going to “blow up,” responded:
“We don’t experience this every day. Unfortunately, what’s happening across the nation makes these kinds of incidents compelling, to meet in an honest, direct, and forthright way. Olympia is a community that cares deeply about social justice and I think that it’s important that anytime there’s a dramatic incident like this – and I call this a dramatic incident – that we stand together as a community and model respectful, thoughtful, inclusive dialogue, so I’m standing here because I want to represent those values and I think our community, I believe can, learn from events like this and become stronger as a result, so I’m here to support the young men that are in the hospital, to support the police officers involved, and I’m here to support the families that are involved, both directly and indirectly, and I’m here to support our community at large. I think that’s the role of the mayor….”
Buxbaum continued:
“I believe Olympia is going to heed this – honoring the values and principals we hold dear as a community – nonviolence, inclusive dialog, and good, solid relationship building. I believe in this community. We have had challenging times, and certainly this is one of those times. Being proactive in these situations, I think is another way of representing our values as community. I think it’s my responsibility to be here. And I do want to emphasize talking with Interfaith Works and members of our clergy that we are committed to open dialog where people can gather and share their perspectives, feelings, show their compassion and stand up for what I think, again, represents our values, is learning from things that are challenging.”
Copies of CDs of the initial 911 call were made available, as well as copies of the Olympia Police Department policies on use of force, equipment and proficiency, and the Washington State Legislature statute, RCW 9A.16.040, on Justifiable homicide or use of deadly force by public officer, peace officer, person aiding, and RCW 9A.16.020 Use of force - when lawful.
More will be added to this story by Little Hollywood as time allows. For past stories on the Olympia Police Department, go to Little Hollywood at www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and use the search button to type in key words. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Family Shelter Residents OK After Morning Fire


Above: Kids and adults, many of them barefoot, waited for firefighters to arrive at the Family Support shelter on 7th Avenue in Olympia this morning.

By Janine Unsoeld
Earlier this morning, shortly after 10:00 a.m., Olympia firefighters responded to a report of a fire at the Family Support shelter called Pear Blossom Place, located at 837 7th Ave SE.
The shelter, formerly the city-leased Smith Building, is across from the old city hall and opened in June 2014.
After the alarm went off, residents and onsite staff came streaming out of the building and waited outside for over two hours. Many children were barefoot and without coats, including a mother and her baby, who was clad only in a onesie. The weather was relatively mild, but became cool at times. Some held onto their dogs, and one woman held her 17 year old cat safe and cozy in a backpack.
Olympia and Lacey Fire Dist. 3 crews arrived to find the fire controlled by the buildings automatic sprinkler system. According to a fire department press release, firefighters ensured the fire did not extend beyond the apartment and evaluated two patients, one for a minor burn injury and the second for smoke inhalation. Both patients refused further aid and were released at the scene. No other injuries were reported.
Above: Firefighters arrive at Pear Blossom Place.
 
The Olympia Fire Department responded with four engines, one ladder truck, two medic units, and a command unit.  Lacey Fire District 3 also responded and assisted by covering additional emergency responses within Olympia.  One minor firefighter injury was reported and was expected to be seen at Providence Saint Peter’s Hospital for a minor laceration.
The Olympia Fire Department remained on scene to assist the residents, remove smoke, water, and investigate the fire.  The American Red Cross was contacted to assist the families.  At this time the cause of the fire appears to be accidental.  Total fire loss is expected to be $20,000.
Schelli Slaughter, executive director of the Family Support Center, arrived onsite soon after the firefighters to assist and determine individual needs. She said about 15 families and 60 individuals total are currently living at the shelter, which provides housing for local homeless families with children. She said some units were perfectly fine, others will take more work, and that two units were most affected.
A company that deals with water damage was seen onsite late this afternoon.
For more information about Pear Blossom Place, and how you can volunteer or help the shelter, go to the Family Support Center of Sound Sound at www.fscss.org.
Above: Kids are excited to receive stickers from firefighters while they waited until they could get back inside the building.
 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Nine Compete for Appointment to Port’s District #3 Seat


According to a press release issued by the Port of Olympia, the Port has received applications from nine District #3 residents vying for appointment to the open District #3 Commission seat. The deadline to apply was May 8 at 5:00 p.m.

The vacancy is a result of Commissioner Sue Gunn’s resignation due to health issues. The person appointed will serve until the county-wide election is certified in late November. At that time, the seat will vest in the person duly elected by a majority of the residents who voted.

Applicants for the Port Commissioner District #3 appointment are (in alphabetical order):

·         Jerry Farmer
·         Frederick Finn
·         Lawrence Goodman
·         Bob Jones
·         Michelle Morris
·         Dick Pust
·         George Sharp
·         Bill Wells
·         Elizabeth (E.J.) Zita

Commissioners George L. Barner, Jr. and Bill McGregor are reviewing the applications. They will decide which persons they will interview for the position at their regular public work session on May 21, 2:30 p.m.


Interviews of the selected candidates will occur during public meetings on June 1 and 2, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The Commission anticipates appointing the new District #3 Commissioner at their regular meeting on Wednesday, June 10 (which is a reschedule of their typical 2nd Monday meeting date). The next step will be the swearing in of the appointed Port Commissioner at the Thurston County Courthouse.

Once sworn in, the appointed Commissioner will participate in all Commission meetings and business, including the regular study session on June 18 and the regular meeting on June 22.

All the Commission meetings described will occur at Tumwater Town Center, 7241 Cleanwater Drive SW, Tumwater.

For information about the process, please contact Jeri Sevier, jeris@portolympia.com , 360.528.8003