Two weekends ago a police cruiser pulled up "fast" in front of Evan Hreha as he was walking back home from the protest on 11th and Pine. At least three other Seattle Police Department SUVs quickly pulled up behind him, and several officers filed out to detain him on suspicion of pointing a laser at a cop, a class C felony that can carry up to a five-year jail sentence or a $10,000 fine.
Hreha, a hairdresser at Antonio Salon downtown, told the cops to search him. "I've never owned a laser," he said over the phone after being released from jail last week, "The only laser I've seen is a laser hair remover." But the cops only patted him down and took his photo, he said, then took him into custody. He remained in jail for two nights.
Hreha's case has drawn widespread public attention because he captured the video of a child who appeared to have been pepper-sprayed by Seattle police during protests downtown on May 30. Hreha and others wonder if the arrest is retaliatory.
"They know who I am, they have my face, I did an interview with KOMO,... It's not a stretch," he said.
Hreha said he did see a laser several hours before the arrest near 11th and Pine, but it was trained on him.
Hreha hadn't planned to attend the Saturday protest until his longtime friend, Garrett Lunsford, "begged" him to work a makeshift hot dog stand he'd set up outside Rain City Fit. Lunsford said he gave Hreha a pair of tongs and put him on onion duty.
Besides stepping away from the stand "a couple times" for a smoke and once to briefly film the intersection shortly after cops dispersed the crowd with gas and blast balls, Hreha said he manned the stand the whole time he was there.
Hreha said he headed back to his place downtown to feed his dog around 10:30 p.m. When he stepped away from the stand, he said a green laser hit his chest.
He described the beam as "a flat line the shape of a ruler, not a pin-point." It had "crossed a couple people" before landing on him, and he said he saw it coming from the direction the "building kitty-corner to the Stranger," the Richmark Label building, where members of the National Guard and SPD had been posted with binoculars all day.
SPD didn't respond to a request for comment by deadline. I'll update this post if I hear back. Cops reported protesters shining red, green, and blue lasers at the police line across Pine at 11th Avenue, and at the officers on the roof that Saturday, according to their timeline of events.
While in jail, Hreha said he asked for medication repeatedly but was only given one of the five medications he takes, and was only given it an hour before being released Monday evening. "They’re not medications you should stop taking suddenly," he said. "So it was a really uncomfortable."
Representatives from King County Correctional Facility haven't returned requests for comment, but I'll update if I hear back.
Last week the King County prosecutor’s office dropped Hreha's case from their hearing calendar when SPD said they planned to refer the matter as a misdemeanor to Seattle Municipal Court. A spokesperson for the city attorney's office said they have yet to receive the referral.
At this point, Hreha said all he wants is justice for the child who was pepper-sprayed. "[Whichever] cop did it, I would like them to be held accountable for what they did."
He also said the experience opened his eyes to the reality of biased policing. "I really did believe police were there to protect and serve, and I’m sure there are still cops who believe that, but that fairy tale that white people live in is not the reality POC face everyday," Hreha added.