Police investigating a possible hate crime in Edmonds

Victims’ mother: “I don’t want to be afraid, and I don’t want my kids to be afraid”
By Brian Soergel | Feb 07, 2018

Two African-American teenagers taking pictures for a school project were given a frightening lesson in intolerance when they claim a group of people outside Harvey’s Lounge in Edmonds threw racial slurs their way and threatened them with a baseball bat.

The Edmonds Police Department is investigating the possible hate crime through interviewing witnesses and viewing surveillance footage from the business to determine if a crime occurred. It also has notified the FBI.

The incident was the talk of local social media on Monday, Feb. 5, after the mother of the two teens, Darnesha Weary, posted her version of the Sunday, Feb. 4, incident on the Edmonds Moms Facebook page.

Although Edmonds Police Sgt. Josh McClure, in a news release, said that “we encourage everyone to be respectful of the process; let the facts come to light and to refrain from inflammatory comments,” Weary said she is speaking to the media because she wants to show that racial discrimination can happen anywhere.

“I want people to know that this is not OK,” she told the Beacon Tuesday. “We don’t want this in our community, because we do love this community. I would just love to see awareness that these things do happen, and if anyone witnesses a situation like this as a bystander, to report it.”

McClure – who confirmed that a woman is seen in a surveillance video holding a bat – said the police have received full cooperation from Harvey's owner Alex Munday.

Munday posted the following on Harvey’s Facebook page Tuesday:

“The police were here most of the night and are currently burning through copies of the footage. Edmonds PD asks me not to release any info for the time being. We are sorry for the silence at this time, but we work very closely with Edmonds PD and will respect their request.

“We absolutely do not tolerate racism. In the seven-plus years I have been here, I don’t recall ever hearing a racial comment from customers or employees. I can’t say it has never happened; I just haven’t witnessed it.”

Weary said her children’s version of what happened was understandably upsetting.

On Sunday night, she said, 18-year-old Erwin was on Highway 99 taking photos for a project for his school, Cedar Park Christian in Mountlake Terrace. Helping out was his sister, 14-year-old Mikayla, a student at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline.

“We knew they were going to take photos,” Weary said. “He has taken several photos around town, at the beach, at Dick’s burgers, just random places for the school project. So we just told them to come back within an hour.”

When they returned, Weary said Mikayla was frantic and crying.

“My son didn’t say much; he was just sitting there with his head down. He finally said he was scared for himself, but mostly scared for his sister.”

Erwin told his mother and father Erwin Sr. that, all of a sudden, as he was taking pictures, a man emerged from Harvey’s, yelled the “n” word at them and ordered them to leave.

Weary said Erwin and Mikayla got into their car, Erwin driving, and took off. While at the 7-11 near Edmonds-Woodway High School, Erwin realized he misplaced his wallet and must have left it in the parking lot at Harvey’s.

He returned to the scene and discovered it under the neon Harvey’s sign, which he had been taking a picture of earlier.

It was then that Weary said a man and a woman emerged from Harvey’s again, with the woman yelling the “n” word and screaming at Erwin and Mikayla to “get off her property.”

After her son told her what happened, Weary said she called 9-1-1 then Harvey’s itself.

“The woman who answered told me verbatim the ‘n’ word to me over phone,” she said. “She said she didn’t want ‘n’ words ‘on our property’ and that (Erwin) was being suspicious. The fact that she told my son that he was suspicious just because he was a black male – those were just hard words to hear.”

Weary said the woman also threatened her by saying, “Honey, you’ve got another thing coming.”

Weary, 38, a Meadowdale High School graduate whose family lives in Esperance, said she’s trying not to have the incident change her perception of Edmonds.

“I’m trying to make it not, because we live here,” she said. “My kids walk to Ranch 99 to get bubble tea. I feel safe here. My son drives, so if he’s going to Seattle we ask him to tell us where he’s going, to keep in touch.

“But when he tells us he’s just going to the beach, we’re just like OK, just go. I don’t want to be afraid, and I don’t want my kids to be afraid, but this really just opened my eyes that this could happen anywhere.”

Weary said one good thing has come from the the scary experience.

“The outpouring of love and support from neighbors has kept us going. I was in a really bad place emotionally, thinking about what could have happened if that bat had gotten closer to my child.”

On Tuesday, Mayor Dave Earling addressed the incident at the City Council meeting.

“I want to take a moment to offer a remark with regard to the incident that occurred outside Harvey’s Tavern on Highway 99 this past weekend, especially because there has been so much dialogue and comment on social media over the past two days.

“It is alleged that racially motivated threats were made against youth at the site. While I can offer no additional information about the veracity of these allegations, since the Edmonds Police Department is still in the process of a thorough investigation into this matter, I do wish to say that the city of Edmonds is an open and accepting community that does not tolerate the kind of repugnant behavior alleged in this incident.

“Upon conclusion of the police department’s investigation, if these allegations are borne out and criminal charges are warranted, I fully expect that legal prosecution of the matter will be carried out to the full extent of the law, and any perpetrators will be brought to justice.

“In the meantime, I would encourage the public to refrain from engaging in accusations and debate via social media or otherwise, especially in light of the privacy and dignity of the parties involved.”

The Edmonds Diversity Commission planned to discuss the incident during its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, Feb. 7. It also said it would listen to citizen comments.

Other racial incidents in Edmonds

This latest alleged incident isn’t an outlier in recent Edmonds history.

In August 2014, Dembo Sanneh, an African-American resident in Edmonds, took a walk along Sunset Avenue and the Edmonds waterfront with his family. It was a pleasant walk that turned dangerous when a white man yelled racial slurs at his family and threatened to kill them.

That incident led to a forum on race at Edmonds Community College and an organized walk against racism at Brackett’s Landing and in support of Sanneh, who is originally from Gambia.

Then, last April, swastikas were painted on cars and homes in the Westgate and Esperance neighborhoods.

A few months later, Edmonds Police arrested a 21-year-old man for vandalizing a vehicle at Westgate Chapel. They had found a swastika spray-painted on the side of a vehicle belonging to a church member.

And, over the summer last year, there were two reports of racially motivated graffiti at Madrona K-8.

Finally, on Oct. 26, according to police reports, two African-American construction workers at the Building 10 condos construction site on Pine Street discovered a noose tied over a beam in an area they had access to.

The superintendent and foreman on the work site were fired by the contractor, Seattle-based Venture General Contracting.

 

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