- Ansel Herz
- Mohawk Kuzma—real name Miles Partman—stands outside the West Precinct on Wednesday waiting for an officer to tell him how to recover his wallet from Seattle police.
James Lynch, an anchor and reporter with local Fox affiliate Q13, apologized this afternoon for taunting protest organizer Mohawk Kuzma on Twitter on Sunday evening.
"Heard u were crying like a lil girl when u got arrested. Just leaving you up long enough 4 u 2 read then u WILL BE BLOCKED," Lynch wrote.
@ACTIVISMKING09 Heard u were crying like a lil girl when u got arrested. Just leaving you up long enough 4 u 2 read then u WILL BE BLOCKED.— James Lynch (@JamesQ13Fox) January 25, 2015
This afternoon, Lynch offered this apology on Twitter: "I realize there is no excuse for my choice of words. I hope those offended will accept my sincere apology... In a Twitter exchange I used language I should not have used. I felt as though I was under attack & I responded b4 thinking."
However, he replied to the wrong account. Kuzma, who is 24-years-old, said he received a flood of abuse from conservatives—he even posted some noxious examples—so he changed his Twitter handle. Lynch apparently didn't notice.
Kuzma was arrested during Martin Luther King day protests and booked on charges of assault—specifically, police accuse of him assaulting a policeman. The officer can be seen in this video on the ground, nursing what police say is a sprained knee or ankle, while other officers pepper-spray several demonstrators.
On Thursday, King County prosecutors declined to file charges against Kuzma and Michael O'Dell, another demonstrator who police accused of assault on the officer. (Police haven't released the officer's name.) The two men were released, but Judge Carlos Velategui said prosecutors could still file charges.
The Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) called O'Dell, the other man accused of assault, a "skell"—a derogatory term for a vagrant or homeless person, according to the dictionary—on its Facebook page and raged against the judge for releasing him without bail. O'Dell works as a therapist at a local hospital.
SPOG doubled down on the use of the term skell on Twitter when I asked the union about it. "yep... Don't ambush one of our members knocking him out and expect any other response.... #dontassaulthepolice," the union tweeted back at me, from its official account.
Kuzma, who was profiled by the Seattle Times in December, flatly denies pushing any police officer. "I never touched a police officer," he said. "Not a single touch."
He insists the officer fell on his own. And he believes that SPD has been targeting protest organizers with arrests. He said police pointed him out to Chief Kathleen O'Toole at the West Precinct while he was in a holding cell on MLK day, with the cuffs so tight around his wrists that his fingers began to turn purple.
O'Dell told me he overheard O'Toole say, "We got Mohawk."
"I absolutely deny assaulting anyone," O'Dell told me. "I am usually taking photos of the protests, but when the police are close or appear to be ramping up, I take video to document their actions. I would never touch an officer let alone assault a police officer."
Kuzma said at the West Precinct, one officer ignored his requests to loosen the handcuffs. Another eventually did so.
But he said Seattle police still have his wallet, and that he's been been unable to get it back. On Wednesday evening, Kuzma showed me where his backpack's straps had been cut, rendering it useless. Then he walked through downtown, carrying it by hand, on a quest to retrieve his wallet at the West Precinct.
We went inside the station, but the officer inside at the front desk—"D. Espinoza"—was on the phone and didn't acknowledge us when we walked in and stood there.
Eventually, he got off the phone, glowering. He still wouldn't so much as look up at either of us, even when Kuzma asked politely where he could get his wallet.
Kuzma, who gets around town by foot and bus, explained that he'd already gone to SPD's evidence unit on Airport Way. But they didn't have it.
Continuing to studiously avoid making eye contact, Espinoza said finally, "I have no idea. You'd have to go to the jail... No. We don't keep anything here."
Kuzma turned around and walked back across downtown to the jail. They didn't have it. An hour later, he came back to the West Precinct. This time, the doors were locked, but after a few minutes, an officer pulled up in an SUV. As he walked in, he stopped and Kuzma told him he needed to get his wallet back—which had his cash and ID in it. The officer said he'd try to find it, but left us standing outside in the cold to wait.
"He's a lot more responsive than the other officer," Kuzma observed.
After another wait of 5 to 10 minutes, a higher-ranking officer came out. He said they were unable to locate the wallet. But he didn't apologize. He told Kuzma to come back again tomorrow and talk to Sergeant Jim Dyment, who'd overseen the arrests on MLK Day.
Kuzma said he did just that. But he called me the next day: "This is ridiculous. They looked through the jail collection and they didn't have it."
"This has happened before," said SPD spokesman Patrick Michaud. "It's sad when it does." He denied that there was any deliberate attempt to humiliate or cause extra problems for Kuzma, even if that seems to have been the effect. "If he hasn't filed a complaint about that, he should probably do that with OPA [the Office of Professional Accountability]... They can track it that way."
File a complaint in order to get your wallet back? Kuzma said today he still doesn't have his wallet and none of the officers he's spoken with told him to file a complaint. "East precinct bike officer told me to call the evidence unit and I did and they referred me back to the East precinct," he said via text today.
As for the backpack, SPD's Michaud said cutting its straps, in order to detach it from a handcuffed person, is "just the typical way we do that... You can file a claim through the city. All those forms are available online."