On Wednesday afternoon the Seattle Police Department wrote a blog post about a woman who allegedly slashed an apartment security guard on Capitol Hill with a machete Tuesday night. The guard endured "two five-inch cuts" and was sent to the hospital with "non-life-threatening injuries," and cops booked the woman on suspicion of assault.
The cops don't directly link this woman to the protesters, but the details they chose to include in their post strongly imply the connection, presumably just in case any right-wing commentators (or American presidents) wanted to exploit this story for their own political purposes, as we've seen happen several times this summer.
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In the blotter post, the cops highlighted the fact that the woman asked if the security guard was an "officer," mentioned that protesters just so happened to be "down the block" dumping garbage and setting fire to a flag "on the SPD East Precinct fence line," said protesters "initially tended to the guard’s wounds"—locating them suddenly not "down the block" but at the scene of the crime—and included a line about the woman changing her clothing after the fact at a nearby gas station, suggesting that perhaps the woman was "de-bloc'ing," a term that describes the process of protesters removing the black clothes they use to conceal their identities during demonstrations.
As a matter of course, TV news essentially reissued the press release, and then today, Jason Rantz went ahead and made the implicit connections SPD's comms team drew between the protesters and the woman a little more explicit in his lede: "As agitators started fires and burned a flag outside the East Precinct, a woman used a machete to attack a security guard across the street. She confused him for a Seattle police officer." Here, Rantz suggests the woman targeted the guard solely because she confused him with a "Seattle police officer," and underlines the proximity of the nearby protest, again suggesting a connection between the two incidents.
But a cursory glance at the alleged perpetrator's social media feeds provides some helpful context that the state and conservative media outlets failed to include in their reports.
The woman who allegedly slashed the guard, Ernanda Bendtsen, posted much of her Tuesday evening on her Instagram stories feed. The video is no longer available, since stories auto-delete after a day, but I saved the video.
In the video, Bendtsen can be seen riding around Seattle in a vehicle. I'm no doctor, but she appears to be in some sort of altered state. Incidentally, in an August 25 Instagram post, she extols the virtues of consuming meth in "controlled doses."
At around 9:30 p.m., she films herself launching into a rant about her mission to confront child molesters. She then walks into a gas station and apparently accuses the clerk of being a child molester. "I don’t know how I know, but I know,” she says.
At around 11:31 p.m., she can be seen in the video outside an apartment complex confronting a security guard who is wearing a vest with the word "officer" on it. When she asks if he’s a child molester, a voice can be heard saying, “Yes, aren’t you a child molester?" It's hard to tell whether the guard says that phrase because he's wearing a mask, dutifully complying with the statewide mask mandate.
The next video shows a protester treating Bendtsen with saline solution and baby wipes after someone pepper-sprayed her. While the protester attempts to clear her eyes, she repeatedly asks if the person treating her is trying to hurt her, which suggests that she doesn't know the protester and is sort of in her own world. She also appears to be holding a large knife.
In the next video, Bendtsen can be seen at a gas station rubbing her eyes with the baby wipes, clearly in distress. "This is what you guys want? To torture me into fighting for your cause? Fuck you, all of you,” she says, with the text "#blm" floating in the middle of the video. "He fucking deserved it," she says, "He deserved it. He’s a fake cop, walking around molesting people. It’s horrible."
Neither the police nor other news outlets included in their reports this context, which is more suggestive of a woman experiencing some kind of mental break rather than someone deliberately and consciously seeking out cops to hurt. Rantz mentions court documents claiming Bendtsen called the security guard a "child molester," but the headline and the subheads in his article scream about her confusing the guard for a cop in a desperate attempt to peg her as someone bent on violently targeting Seattle Police specifically, and reinforcing a narrative of the SPD as victims of a murderous protest movement, etc. etc. etc.
A spokesperson for the King County prosecutor's office said they're "not sure at this time if [this incident] is protest-related."
In charging documents filed late Friday afternoon, prosecutors said Bendtsen had been "traveling up and down the coast in a van." Her only "ties to the community" involve her connection to a guy named Jesse Puff, who prosecutors charged with murder, arson, and assault after a July 13 fire at the Hillside Motel on Aurora.
According to the detective who reviewed Bendtsen's case, as officers took her into custody she said, "I am the white crow, I don't like child molesters, and I support Black Lives Matter."
None of this context excuses the crime of slashing someone with a machete, but here is yet another example of this PR plan in action. First, cops write a vague, passive, fear-mongering blog post on the SPD blotter. The post prompts TV news to spread the word, which right-wing media then distorts, sensationalizes, and amplifies in the hopes of reaching the ear of our insane President, who is one more bad news cycle away from sending in the military to crush a group of about 40 protesters in one neighborhood in one medium-sized city. Rinse, repeat. Why they feel the need to crank up this machine in this case, when they already have plenty of Molotov content to run with, is beyond me.