Officials with YMCA of Greater Seattle spoke out on Wednesday, after police entered the Kirkland Teen Union Building (KTUB) in September and arrested a 14-year-old boy. The organization took issue with an officer’s use of force in detaining the youth, and with his treatment toward another teen at the center and program director Antione Jackson.
All three people are black males. The officers are white.
YMCA officials revealed details about the incident during a media conference on Nov. 13, at its downtown Seattle location.
On Sept. 5 Kirkland police received calls about petty thefts — typically classified as a misdemeanor. A caller ultimately directed police to the KTUB, where they took the youth into custody.
Footage released by the YMCA shows two Kirkland police officers enter the building, bypass a vacant front counter and speak with an intern, who then led the officers to the teen. After they entered a room — an area without security cameras — the video shows one of the officers emerge, within a few seconds, with his arms wrapped around the teen. The officer swings the teen, before throwing him to the ground, holding his head down and handcuffing him.
“I immediately let the officer know I was the center director, that I was here to assist, to try and deescalate the situation as much as possible,” Jackson said. “The officer responded to me by telling me to ‘get the f—- out of his face, and to back up.’”
Jackson said he followed officers, as they led the youth toward the exit. He again let them know that he was the director. The officer turned and pushed Jackson and allegedly said “to back out of his face, or he was going to shoot [Jackson] in [his] f——— face.”
The officer then pointed a Taser at another teen in the building as police were exiting, Jackson said. Video footage corroborated these statements, however, there was no audio to confirm the officer’s language or statements made by any party that day.
“We believe the police officers’ behavior and level of force…were unacceptable and cannot be condoned in any community, especially in a safe place for teens,” said Loria Yeadon, YMCA of greater Seattle president and CEO.
After the incident, the YMCA sent a written complaint to Kirkland Mayor Penny Sweet. The organization requested a police investigation and to meet with officials. The YMCA has been working with the mayor, city manager Kurt Triplett and police chief Cherie Harris and have met with officials several times. They requested that city officials complete the investigation quickly. The investigation remains ongoing.
Yeadon called on the city of Kirkland to take action, after not acting in a “timely way.” She urged officials to take the appropriate disciplinary action and build protocols to ensure safety and respect.
“We understand that it is human nature to experience events differently based on our backgrounds and circumstances,” a news statement from the city of Kirkland reads. “We take very seriously the ways in which this event was experienced by KTUB staff and youth. Kirkland is committed to continuing an ongoing dialogue to increase understanding of our differing perspectives and make any necessary changes to create deeper, stronger relationships.”
Kirkland city officials said that the teen who was arrested was later charged with third-degree theft, and had an outstanding misdemeanor arrest warrant in Everett. That a homeowner provided a photo of a person, who was wearing a red shirt and khaki pants. That photo was distributed to all police officers on duty, including the arresting officer.
City leaders also released the YMCA footage online, along with the 911 calls leading up to the incident under dispute. They paint a narrative of a group of teens, of different races, committing crimes around the city that day. According to the phone records:
The first call came in from a subject who reported a stolen a package. He described a black male with a red-and-blue shirt, khaki pants, and as high school aged.
A second caller that day reported that two kids stole a tip jar from a business on Main Street and Park Lane. “I think the police need to come down here and hang out, maybe even have a talk with these kids,” the caller said. He reported no weapons and that one of the two teens was white and the other was black. He guessed they were about 14 years of age.
Another caller reported that someone took off with their vaping device. The subject was described as white, with his hair up in a bun, and consistent with the description from another caller. Ten minutes later they called back to report that they saw the white male enter the KTUB building. They said he was with friends, and all about the same age.
“They’re African American and wearing a striped green sweatshirt and then a red one I believe,” the caller said about the others with the alleged thief.
In response to the allegations, a city of Kirkland statement said that a school resource officer at Juanita High School had been notified by district staff around noon that day, that a group of young men were trespassing on campus. They allegedly planned an assault against another student at the school.
When asked for clarification on what led the school administrator to believe there was a threat against another student, Kellie Stickney, Kirkland communications program manager, said these details would be released when the investigation is completed.
“There’s a certain level of detail we’re not able to get into at this time,” she said. “A lot of this has to do with what is the officer’s state of mind, when an officer goes into this situation thinking about keeping bystanders safe, protecting their own safety…when to take action.”
These kinds of investigations typically take 90 days to complete, Stickney said. She added that the YMCA refused to provide the city footage until Oct. 29, delaying the process. In response, YMCA officials said this wasn’t true, and that their schedules didn’t align until this date.
“We have been and intend to continue to be fully cooperative with the city of Kirkland,” said Alonda Williams, senior vice president of YMCA of Greater Seattle.
Stickney said the same, that the city is committed to working with the YMCA on a path forward that would result in positive outcomes for everyone — including the teenagers.