by Carolyn Bick
The Emerald’s Watchdragon reporting seeks to increase accountability within our city’s institutions through in-depth investigative journalism.
In late September 2021, the Emerald published an article detailing serious discrepancies and what appears to have been a false narrative about the events of the 2020 Labor Day protest in front of the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG).
This false narrative, detailed in the Office of Police Accountability’s (OPA) Director’s Certification Memo (DCM) for the case — 2020OPA-0583 — was based on interviews with some Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers who were at the protest, as well as other supplemental documentation such as body worn video (BWV).
The DCM was finalized in April 2021, but as of that writing, the Case Closed Summary (CCS) — the public-facing document regarding the OPA’s decision in a case — had not been published.
The OPA finally published part I of this CCS on Feb. 8, 2022, but it should be noted that the date on the CCS is April 8, 2021, which lines up with the investigation completion date that the Emerald wrote in its September article on the matter.
This is despite former OPA Dir. Andrew Myerberg claiming that an amended DCM would be issued and current Seattle City Councilmember and Public Safety & Human Services Committee chair Lisa Herbold stating that the case had yet to be finalized and closed, apparently ignoring the available evidence to the contrary.
Of the partial certification the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) auditor issued for this case in February of last year — a partial certification that noted the investigation had so many problems and red flags that the investigation could not be salvaged — the OPA’s CCS claims are as follows (text below excerpted from the document):
“[T]he OIG references the following: (1) the potential that the individual who was targeted for arrest was not in possession with an incendiary device; (2) the investigator’s failure to describe a purported struggle with this person that causes a trash bag to be ripped open; (3) a statement made by the investigator that one of the subjects was not captured on video; and (4) omission of the trash bag from the investigator’s case summary and description of the CAD Report.
“In response to point one, from OPA’s review of the video, the Sergeant and other officers moved into arrest the individual who was pointed at by the source in the crowd and identified as the suspect. OPA could not see an incendiary device in that individual’s hand at the time but also could not definitively foreclose that this was the case at or prior to the time the officers first approached. However, this does not serve to undercut the arrest as the probable cause flowed from the radio transmissions from supervisors and the source actively identifying the individual as the perpetrator.
“In response to points two, three, and four, the trash bag can only be seen when the Sergeant’s video is slowed down and then again is only visible for a very short period of time. It appears clear that the OPA investigator missed both the trash bag and the person’s initial visibility on video during the initial assessment of the case. However, OPA disagrees that this goes to the bias of the investigator or that there is a basis to conclude that this information was deliberately withheld from the case summary. OPA further notes that, as indicated above, whether the individual was holding a trash bag at the time of first contact by the Sergeant has no bearing on whether there was probable cause to arrest. Moreover, the suspect was identified as having a trash bag multiple times over the radio.
“With regard to the second concern, the OIG asserted that the investigator did not include portions of a Seattle Times article that the OIG auditor viewed as less favorable to SPD, while leaving in those portions that described violent actions on behalf of protestors. Even if not ultimately relevant to OPA’s final conclusions, OPA agrees that, to the extent parts of an article are included in the case summary, those portions should be copied in their entirety.
“With regard to the third concern, the OIG correctly identifies leading questions in the partial certification. OPA trains investigators to avoid using leading questions and, as a general matter, such questions are avoided. However, where numerous interviews are conducted in a case, it is not unusual for such questions to occur. The OIG auditor also referenced testimony provided by a SPOG representative concerning bicycle tactics that was later referenced in the case summary. OPA’s Manual precludes SPOG representatives from interrupting or disrupting interviews. There was no evidence that this was the case here as the OPA representative consented to asking a question from the SPOG representative who had specific relevant information. This information was added to the case summary and weighed together with the other evidence in the file. OPA agrees, however, that the better course of action would have been to bring in an SPD-designated expert, even though the SPOG representative possessed sufficient expertise to opine on this matter.
“With regard to the OIG’s fourth and last concern, OPA is resource limited when deciding which interviews to conduct. While additional interviews would likely have made the case more complete, OPA does not believe that those interviews would have changed its ultimate findings in this case.”
Readers are invited to keep all of this in mind as they read parts one and two of this article. Though some of the narrative has been corrected — thus confirming several of the concerns that the whistleblower noted and what the Emerald wrote — this two-part article will help readers understand the many flaws that remain and why the OPA’s claims in the CCS regarding the auditor’s partial certification do not appear to accurately represent the totality of the evidence available that the OPA investigator in charge of this investigation appears to have ignored.
Readers are also invited to read the Emerald’s list of questions that it sent to the OPA for this two-part article. The OPA did not answer a single question.
The first part of this article focuses on the officer interviews the OPA conducted — as well as those it failed to conduct — in the course of its investigation.
In its CCS, the OPA claims that such interviews would have made no difference, which is an interesting statement given that the Emerald has learned that the OPA failed to interview seven officers who were directly involved or who appear to have been very closely involved in the decision-making and actions that day. This includes the officer who attempted to arrest the person wearing black clothes who was identified over police radio, the intelligence officer planted in the crowd, and one of the commanding officers in charge of one of two crowd management platoons (bike officers).
The Emerald has also discovered several statements worthy of discussion in two key officer interviews in this case. Though there are a number of other officer interviews to unpack for readers, as well as a factually inaccurate Report of Investigation (ROI) to address, the Emerald will explore these in another article due to the lengthy nature of the two key interviews covered below.
The second part of this article, appearing tomorrow, will focus on several issues the OPA itself admits to in its CCS, including leading questions the investigating officer asked during some interviews and the instances where SPOG representatives did not appear to adhere to the OPA Manual’s regulations as set down at the time.
The Officers the OPA Didn’t Interview
As the Emerald briefly described above, the OPA investigator in charge of the investigation, SPD Sgt. Matthew Hendry, failed to interview seven key officers. Most of these officers’ names are known, but one is not: the officer acting as in-crowd intelligence, who can be seen on BWV waving his hat to signal other officers to arrest the person he is standing next to.
It is unclear why the OPA would not interview this officer, as he seems integral to the narrative of the DCM and of the officers that day: Though its narrative is factually incorrect, the DCM claims that police attempted a targeted arrest of a subject identified as having an incendiary device. The police would have thus been acting on intelligence from an officer within the crowd — this officer — because it was this officer who signaled that the person he was standing next to was the person officers should arrest.
This arrest attempt ultimately failed and was captured on the aforementioned BWV of the officer who attempted said arrest. That officer, Sgt. Joshua Ziemer, was also not interviewed by OPA investigators, despite the fact that he played a critical role in the events of that day.
According to the DCM, the person Ziemer was attempting to arrest allegedly had an incendiary device. But, as the Emerald laid out in its first story about the events of the Labor Day 2020 protest, this does not appear to be true. Ziemer’s BWV, which the Emerald has included below, shows Ziemer ripping open the black trash bag the person is holding. Inside, there appears to be nothing but trash, with nary an incendiary device to be seen. And this makes sense: As the Emerald also detailed in the first story and briefly wrote about in a subsequent story involving a federal complaint, during the 2020 Labor Day protest, police never targeted for arrest the person who is alleged to have had incendiary devices.
The OPA claims in its CCS that the trash bag is irrelevant. However, this is not the case, as Ziemer tells Lt. John Brooks, one of the day’s command officers, that he suspects that one of the plastic bags may contain a Molotov cocktail and suggests that he specifically tried to grab the plastic bag from the person he attempted to arrest because of this suspicion.
In the BWV, Ziemer zips over on his bike to Brooks, and the brief discussion between the pair goes as follows:
Ziemer: “Hey, John [unintelligible] one of these bags might be the one with the Molotov. I grabbed the plastic bag, but I don’t know what happened to it.”
Brooks: “Well, let’s hold here ʼtil we figure out what it is. [Unintelligible]”
Ziemer: “Yeah, I don’t see it anywhere. It was just a regular garbage bag, so … [trails off]”
Thus, it was never confirmed that the bag held a Molotov cocktail — or any incendiary device.
Capt. Matthew Allen, the day’s incident commander, patrolled the protest in a police cruiser accompanied by two other officers: Brooks — who also served as the day’s operations section chief, according to the Incident Action Plan (IAP) — and Det. Chris Young, helped Allen make decisions and relayed information from other officers outside the car. In his OPA interview, Allen specifically identifies Young as relaying information from SPD intelligence officers. However, neither Hendry nor any other OPA investigators interviewed Brooks or Young, even as witness officers.
The OPA also never interviewed Lt. Eric Barden, who not only served as the day’s supervisor for SPD’s Strategic Response Group but also may have played a role in overseeing intelligence officers at the time of the protest, according to Allen, who also suggests in his interview that Barden was somehow involved in intelligence gathering from within the crowd that day.
The OPA also never interviewed then-Sgt. Lora Alcantara, despite Allen himself stating in his use of force (UOF) witness statement from Sept. 7, 2020, that Alcantara was in charge of commanding one of two crowd management platoons.
Additionally, though he was interviewed, the Emerald feels it is appropriate to mention here that the officer in command of the second crowd management platoon, Lt. James Dyment, was interviewed as a witness officer — but a majority of his interview was not about his specific observations from the Labor Day protest. Dyment was not in the car with Allen, and Allen states in his interview that he does not know where Dyment was at the time. While the OPA does ask Dyment about his positioning and observations that day, it does not happen until the end of his interview. Instead, most of Dyment’s interview focuses on questions about bike tactics and whether certain SPD officers’ actions were defensible and constituted trained tactics. The Emerald will return to Dyment’s interview in the second part of this article.
Though he was only briefly mentioned in Allen’s interview, the OPA never interviewed Barden (then a lieutenant and now an assistant chief). According to Allen in his interview, Barden may have played a role in overseeing intelligence officers at the time of the protest, and Allen seems to suggest that Barden was somehow involved in intelligence gathering from within the crowd that day. However, Barden is listed as the supervisor for the strategic response group. It is unclear what this role meant in the context of the day.
Finally, the OPA failed to interview Lt. Thomas Yoon, who is listed in the IAP as the supervisor of the information and intelligence group.
SPOG President Mike Solan’s Interview: “We were ready to … entertain ourselves”
In total, Hendry and other OPA investigators interviewed 11 officers classified as involved in or witness to the day’s events.
One of the most interesting interviews is also one of the shortest: that of SPOG President Mike Solan.
Solan’s interview, conducted on Nov. 13, 2020, lasts a grand total of eight minutes. Despite the fact that Solan blasted music that may have made it impossible for both protesters and other officers to hear any dispersal orders Allen may have given, Hendry interviews Solan not as an involved officer but as a witness officer. The questions Hendry asks Solan are brief, and Hendry appears to avoid probing for more information.
However, one line of questioning that goes unexplored by Hendry stands out.
Hendry asks Solan where he was at the time protesters arrived at SPOG headquarters in SoDo. Solan replies that he was inside the Union Hall.
“Were other people with you?” Hendry asks.
“Yes,” Solan replies, and states that there were “possibly eight, eight to ten” people inside with him. He tells Hendry that they were all inside for a planned Labor Day barbecue. But in Allen’s interview, which the Emerald will touch on in more detail in this article, Allen states that the Labor Day barbecue did not go forward as planned. According to Allen, there were supposed to be families present at the barbeque, but that did not happen.
Hendry asks about Solan’s communications with Allen, Brooks, and Dyment — who were all part of SPD command that day — prior to the Labor Day protest in the context of playing music: “Did you have any discussions with Captain Allen, Lieutenant Dyment, or Lieutenant Brooks about your intent to play music at SPOG Headquarters?”
While Solan replies that he did not, he does appear to state that he did have some sort of conversation with Allen, Brooks, and Dyment about an alleged threat of violence by protesters (emphasis by the Emerald): “I remember that they had concern that we were going to have people in the building (unintelligible) —” This suggests that this was information conveyed to him prior to the event in conversation with one or more of these three command staff members.
But then, Solan contradicts the idea that command staff had relayed concern to him prior to the march (emphasis by the Emerald): “[T]he concern was that the information that they were receiving, that I was just being made aware of, of the intelligence that they were received is that the mob’s intent, that the crowd that was marching on SPOG that day, was to burn the building down.”
He then elaborates: “[T]hey were concerned about … the human beings inside the Union Hall, that if the crowd uh, was successful in their plans to burn the Union Hall down, à la — via Molotov cocktails, that our lives would be in danger.”
“Okay, and who told you that? Or who — who addressed those concerns with you?” Hendry asks.
“Oh, I think it was command, I don’t remember which one,” Solan replies. This appears to indicate that it could have been Allen, Brooks, or Dyment to whom he spoke. Again, Brooks was never interviewed, and Dyment was not interviewed in the context of being part of SPD command that day. Additionally, there is another issue to which the Emerald will return, when it details Allen’s interview: Allen appears to claim no knowledge of such a conversation in his interview.
Hendy does not probe further to ask Solan to clarify whether he had had a conversation with a command officer prior to the march about an alleged threat, or why the barbeque was canceled. He also does not ask why Solan and up to 10 other people would remain in a building that was allegedly going to be the target of a violent attack — information that was, in Solan’s own words, relayed to him in real time before the crowd even got there. Why not execute evacuation procedures?
Solan himself appears to give at least part of the answer to the second question. As the Emerald touched on in its previous article about this incident, Solan blasted a loop of country music shortly after the protesters arrived at SPOG headquarters. Some believed that this was a signal for officers to move in on the crowd, but that allegation remains unproven. However, Solan admits to the following:
“We had condu — uh, we were ready to, uh, entertain ourselves with um, music throughout the Labor Day, uh, barbecue, and um, we were prepared for um, a long uh, demonstration, uh, via the protesters to uh, set up their protest spot in front of SPOG, and we wanted to entertain ourselves to — I uh, I think drown out some of their rhetoric that they were — we were envisioning them using a public address system to uh, spew some activist rhetoric towards us, so we wanted to have music to um, basically muffle their — their — the — their narrative.”
This means that even though the Labor Day barbeque had been canceled, Solan and perhaps 10 other officers decided to stay inside a building that was allegedly going to be the target of a violent, life-threatening attack in order to taunt protesters.
According to the Commander’s Intent section of the IAP for the 2020 Labor Day protest (emphasis by the Emerald), “If there are acts of violence or significant property destruction occurring, I expect our personnel to respond by identifying, isolating, and arresting the offenders if/when it is safe and feasible so those activities are not allowed to corrupt the lawful conduct of others. If/when it is no longer safe or feasible to hold people personally accountable for criminal conduct and/or the crowd presents an imminent risk to public safety or significant property destruction appears likely, then I expect our personnel to utilize dispersal orders and coordinated crowd control tactics that are consistent with law, policy, and training to restore order.”
By this point in the ongoing protests, it is difficult to believe that officers would not have known that moving in on protesters with the intent to arrest would create a chaotic situation. Combined with the fact that officers never attempted during the protest to arrest the person who was later identified as allegedly carrying Molotov cocktails — again, discussed in this story — one possible reading is that officers may have intended to immediately escalate the protest from what the SPD Manual defines in section 14.090-POL-5 as a lawful assembly to an unlawful assembly, in which Allen would issue dispersal orders and officers would be allowed to use force as they saw fit.
SPD Capt. Matthew Allen’s Interview: “We’re … trying to effect a targeted arrest”
OPA investigators Mark Grba — the former OPA deputy director who is no longer with the agency — and Gráinne Perkins, the now the interim director of the OPA, following Andrew Myerberg’s exit from the role, interviewed Allen on Nov. 16, 2020. His interview lasted longer than Solan’s, clocking in at just under 70 minutes. Allen was the incident commander on Sept. 7, 2020.
In his interview, Allen begins by stating that, during the march, he was in the car with Lt. John Brooks and Det. Chris Young. Again, neither of these two officers were ever interviewed. At the questioning of the OPA investigators, Allen says that he learned of the march via an email from a Det. Bassett (he does not state this person’s first name) that contained the image of a flier for a protest march.
He explained that, based on then-recent past events, he felt that the SPOG headquarters was going to be a destination point for the protesters that day. He said that following a march on Aug. 24 at the East Precinct, protesters arrived at SPOG with “shields, sticks, sledgehammers, improvised explosive devices, firearms, incendiary devices, lasers, knives, and other improvised weapons [and] attacked the East Precinct” and that, on the same day, “[a] West Precinct personnel on [sic] — viewed a fire on the rear stairwell of the SPOG Office. Officers — officers extinguished the fire and noted the remnants of a Molotov cocktail. Two other Molotov cocktails were also located.”
Allen also describes a couple other events that involved protesters and “antifa rioters” attacking the West Precinct and East Precinct in the days leading up to Labor Day.
Grba then asks Allen whether he recalled what his “commander’s intent or specific instructions that you had provided to subordinates that day” was, and allows Allen to read directly from the IAP.
The full statement from the IAP reads as follows:
“There have been numerous protests over the past several months throughout the City of Seattle wherein many participants have remained peaceful. However, there have been other protests wherein many participants have engaged in assaultive behavior against police officers and/or committed significant property destruction and/or vandalism against public and private property. My intent is to facilitate free speech and assembly whenever possible, while preserving order and protecting persons and property. My expectation is to maintain a minimal police presence at a safe distance to facilitate the protester’s lawful conduct. Acts of violence or significant property destruction will not be allowed. If there are acts of violence or significant property destruction occurring, I expect our personnel to respond by identifying, isolating, and arresting the offenders if/when it is safe and feasible so those activities are not allowed to corrupt the lawful conduct of others. If/when it is no longer safe or feasible to hold people personally accountable for criminal conduct and/or the crowd presents an imminent risk to public safety or significant property destruction appears likely, then I expect our personnel to utilize dispersal orders and coordinated crowd control tactics that are consistent with law, policy, and training to restore order. Once the crowd is dispersed adequately and order is restored, I expect our personnel to resume efforts to maintain a minimal police presence at a safe distance to facilitate the protester’s lawful conduct.”
Grba does not question the apparent plan to conduct arrests rather than issue a dispersal, despite the fact that, at this point in the protests, arrests had been shown to cause a significant ramp-up in tensions and conflict between police and protesters. Even former OPA Dir. Andrew Myerberg has been clear in stating that SPD seemed to be escalating protest situations simply resulting from their choice to repeatedly position themselves in close quarters with the protesters at these events. In the above-linked September 2020 Converge Media interview with Omari Salisbury and Kevin Schofield, when asked how the SPD is trained in terms of de-escalation, Myerberg replied that clearly, based on events of 2020, “not very well, and not very much.”
Grba then asks whether Allen had anybody reporting back to him from the crowd of protesters, who had first gathered at the International District’s light rail station. Allen responds that Brooks, who was driving the car he, Allen, and Young were in was, from his position as driver, “able to see a lot of the activity and — and basically relay that, what he was seeing, from his driver seat position, as well as we had bicycle officers in the area able to see things as well.”
Allen does not mention any particular intelligence from any officers planted in the crowd, at this point, but goes on to say that “Lieutenant Brooks was giving updates in terms of crowd size and some of the things that people were showing up with,” before defaulting to his written UOF statement from Sept. 7, 2020, which Grba does not stop him from doing.
Allen details briefly how he, Brooks, and Young followed the crowd from the International District to the SPOG office, before Grba asks him whether he remembers intelligence relayed from the crowd about an incendiary device. Allen replies in the affirmative, possibly referring to an officer who had been planted in the crowd. It is unclear why said officer would not have been relaying information to command staff from the get-go, but Grba does not ask about this, and Allen does not elaborate.
Allen states that officers relayed a description of the suspect with the alleged incendiary device. However, he does not mention the fact that the description of the suspect changed and that, ultimately, the person targeted for arrest was not found with an incendiary device (as discussed in the first Emerald story regarding the Labor Day 2020 protest, linked above). He does, however, claim that he and the officers he was commanding developed a plan of action.
Allen claims that “I used my public address system, uh, to — to talk with the crowd. I wanted to try to just engage with then [sic] before anything proceeded from there.” He claims that he did this around the same time “we’re getting the intel that there’s someone in the crowd that’s got this incendiary device.”
It’s unclear whether Allen tried to engage with the crowd, because the music Solan was playing may have drowned it out. However, there was no talk on police radio regarding any sort of vocal crowd engagement prior to or even concurrent with reports of a person alleged to have an incendiary device. The audio only reflects the changing description of the person alleged to have an incendiary device and that officers were told to go in and arrest this person.
Allen then says that the information about the person alleged to have an incendiary device “was coming to us from Intel. Again, I don’t recall if that was a phone call that was coming to Lieutenant Brooks or if it was coming from Detective Young who is then telling us. So he’s getting information from his Intel counterparts and he’s relaying it to Lieutenant Brooks and I. So it could have come from one or both.”
Allen claims that the “plan” was to “try to move the bikes up to make that arrest.” But this appears to be at least partially untrue: TAC9 audio (police radio) reflects that officers were just told to go in to try to arrest this person, but while one officer, Ziemer, does attempt to arrest the person described on police radio along with a group of other others, both BWV and third-party video also show officers on bikes conducting arrests wholesale immediately upon engaging with the crowd, rather than weeding out this one specific person.
Allen furthers this untrue narrative in his statement, which he again reads from in his interview: “at approximately 1819 hours, there was a report of a subject with a gray backpack carrying a trash bag walking by the nearby Chinese restaurant, and there was a smell of gas. According to the SPOC [Seattle Police Operations Center] log, at approximately 1820 hours, our bike officers were directed to move in to arrest the suspect with the incendiary device.”
Not only was this person never actually confirmed to have an incendiary device (they only allegedly smelled of gas), but the only person targeted for arrest — pointed out by the unnamed intelligence officer in the crowd waving his hat next to said person — was shown via Ziemer’s BWV to have nothing in their bag but trash.
Allen goes on to claim that the arrest attempt was part of the plan all along, vis-à-vis the Commander’s Intent section of the IAP, and that he and Brooks were calling for said arrest over the radio. Allen states that he does not know where Dyment was at this time, but Grba asks whether Allen recalls if he had any conversation with Dyment about this arrest.
Allen does not directly answer this question. Instead, he says that “it’s very possible that between Brooks and Dyment they’re kind of working out the lefts and the rights, if you will, on how that’s exactly going to go, given the terrain and — and the layout. So it’s possible that the two of those commanders worked that out … which direction they’re going to come from, et cetera.”
Allen says that he had been informed that the signal for protesters to act would be a large plume of smoke. He states that he believed he saw the smoke after the officers went in on bikes, but later found out it was a fire extinguisher protesters had deployed at police. Nevertheless, he claims that this is when officers went in on an allegedly targeted arrest, naming Ziemer specifically as the officer who tried to “effect the arrest.” This ultimately failed, Allen says, because other protesters hit Ziemer in order to “de-arrest” this person.
Grba then asks if Allen knows whether officers found the incendiary device.
“Uh, I — I don’t know,” Allen replies.
Again, the person targeted for arrest appears to have just been carrying trash in a trash bag, and officers never tried to arrest the person who has been accused of actually having Molotov cocktails during the protest, though he was present on BWV.
Perkins, the other OPA investigator present at the interview, asks Allen why officers didn’t move in earlier to arrest this person, if there was intelligence prior to the protesters getting to SPOG that someone had a Molotov cocktail.
Allen does not answer this question. Instead, he says, “I think we were pretty quick. I thought we were — I didn’t think there was a whole lot of delay.
“I thought once we got that information, had a good description of what they were wearing,” he continues. “I think there was some discussion about they had changed clothes and may — may have changed some appearance, but I thought we moved, I thought, fairly swiftly, to — to go get them.”
There is no explicit discussion over police radio of this person changing clothes. Rather, just the description of the person allegedly carrying an incendiary device changes, with no explanation. When Perkins asks about where the information that this person may have changed clothes came from, Allen replies, “Again, we were — we’re seeing that from Intel.”
Perkins probes further: “When you say ‘intel,’ are you indicating it came from SPD Intelligence, so we have to assume that this information is being verified? Or is it a phone call to you by someone? Like, what’s your definition of ‘intelligence’ here?”
Allen replies that he is getting information “from my Intel people conveyed to me either by telephone or by radio.”
Perkins follows up: “And who are your Intel people? I’m not looking at a name of the source, but I’m — what we need to make sure is that it’s verified, and you didn’t get a random phone call from another SPD officer.”
Allen does not name the intelligence officer in the crowd, but states that a Lt. Barden — likely the now-Assistant Chief Eric Barden — oversees SPD intelligence officers.
Perkins clarifies: “Okay. So it was a lieutenant” — meaning Barden — “in that Intelligence action.”
Allen replies, “Yes.”
Again, as the Emerald pointed out earlier, the OPA never interviewed Barden, despite his apparent role in the day’s events.
Grba later brings up the idea that the action of officers going into the crowd only served to escalate the situation and questions Allen about it: “[Y]ou heard in the video where this individual is saying that — that they are doing nothing and that you have escalated the situation, in essence, by going into them and starting to take action against them. I think that you’ve described why you took action. Do you think that that escalated the crowd in terms of moving in the way you did?”
Allen answers that “I think it’s possible from their perspective, not knowing, necessarily, the information that we had and that we’re going after a targeted arrest — or trying to effect a targeted arrest.”
Again, as the Emerald has already pointed out, this claim of a “targeted arrest” is tenuous, given that upon making contact with the crowd, officers immediately started arresting or attempting to arrest multiple people.
Allen continues: “From their perspective — and I think probably the media picked up on this too — is without having the information that you now have that I’ve provided to you, I’m sure others have as well, it would look on its face that you just have these bikes suddenly just riding into this group of people.
“Uh, my hope or expectation is, with the additional knowledge of what we were trying to effect and — and trying to arrest this person that’s got this incendiary device — again, a Class B felony — and arrest them before they were able to lob it against the SPOG Office, that that’s what we were trying to do,” Allen says. “So, yes, on its face, I’m sure, according to them or from their perspective, if they don’t know that, it looks like we’re just suddenly riding into the group just to ride into the group. We were trying to effect that arrest.”
There is then some back-and-forth with regards to the role munitions played in the day’s events. Grba asks Allen whether there was a plan to deploy those, to which Allen essentially replies that it was on a case-by-case basis, “in direct response to the threats that they’re encountering.” Officers did use various munitions that day, including pepper spray.
Allen then says that he gave a dispersal order and started moving the group of protesters north. He describes the moment when someone from the crowd throws what he assumes is a Molotov cocktail, and it explodes in the middle of the street.
When Grba asks whether Allen believed that the use of dispersal orders was necessary at that point, Allen replies that they were based on “the totality of what I just read to you,” “the prior knowledge,” and an alleged “person in the crowd with an incendiary device.” Allen says that voluntary compliance was impossible, given the circumstances.
Grba then questions Allen about the music Solan played that day — the music that may have drowned out any broadcasts Allen claims to have made, as said broadcasts are not audible in any third-party video over the music.
Allen says he was not aware that Solan or anyone else was going to play music and that it sounded as though it was coming from the direction of the SPOG office. He said that there was no coordination for officers to move in on protesters while this music was playing.
Grba then asks Allen “[were] individuals inside SPOG aware of the tactics that you were about to take?”
Allen replies that he has “no idea” whether they were, but “playing music was not part of my ops plan.”
Perkins tries to probe: “Can I ask, is that not a big concern? And if I was in charge of an ops plan — and, unfortunately, in Ireland there’s been plenty where incendiary devices have been used — the people who are privy to that information, it’s kept very tight because it’s such a serious offense to try and lift someone for. So when you say, ‘I wasn’t aware or not whether people in SPOG knew the plan,’ how — how could that be possible?”
Allen responds, “Well, you’re talking about Seattle police officers, right? So Seattle police officers who may have been in SPOG could have called somebody outside, right? Maybe they know somebody outside. So, again, that’s why I’m thinking is it possible? Sure. They could have called that, look, if we have to make an arrest, that we’re coming in.
“I imagine — what — what I understood that day is that SPOG was going to have some type of, like, families there for some, like, barbecue or event. But then, obviously, that doesn’t play out,” Allen continues. “You can see in the video there’s nobody in that back fenced area. So — but with the people who are in SPOG, is it possible — I think that’s what I was asked — that somebody knew that we are on the outside and — and that we’re there to, you know, support or, I guess, respond? Yeah, I guess that’s possible. As you’re talking, Seattle Police people could be calling Seattle Police people.”
Grba asks, “If they had done that, would there be something inappropriate if they had called that information out?”
Allen asks him to be more specific, so Grba clarifies, “Well, playing it out the way that you said, the possibility existing that somebody from SPD would have called and let other officers know who might have been inside the — the offices that this operation was going to take place.”
And here is where Allen’s and Solan’s interviews conflict.
Readers will recall that Solan said that Allen, Brooks, and Dyment “had concern that we were going to have people in the building,” which suggests this was information relayed to him prior to the Labor Day protest. But Solan then almost immediately contradicts this statement, saying that he was made aware of said concern in the moment and claims that there was information about Molotov cocktails and intent to burn down SPOG headquarters. Given Allen’s interview, it appears that this latter information would most likely have come from Brooks, but Allen never mentions whether Brooks is relaying the information about a person alleged to have an incendiary device to anyone else, including Solan.
But Allen, in his interview, says that “I met with Mike Solan prior to you. I knew that they were there. I was there earlier in the day. So I knew that, again, at some point in the day Mike Solan was there.
“And I — he’s the president of the guild. I brought up this topic about, ‘Hey, I understood that there was going to be some type of function going on here,’” Allen says, appearing to hedge on the idea that he and Solan spoke ahead of time about an alleged threat to SPOG headquarters — a conversation Solan also appears to suggest and then immediately contradict by backtracking to say that he got information in the moment, but he can’t remember from whom.
“But then, again, that doesn’t play out,” Allen continues, not explaining why the barbecue did not “play out.” “So I — I believe Mike knows that we have a contingent of officers that are going to be following this group down. But I had no role in any of this music, and that’s what I was asked about.”
Thus, while it is unclear whether Allen and Solan specifically had a conversation about an alleged violent threat, it appears from both men’s interviews that they may have.
Perkins later asks, “When you spoke with Mike Solan, did you have the intelligence that you had in relation to someone with an incendiary device?”
Allen replies, “No.” He gives the same answer when Perkins asks, “Did you speak with Mike Solan after you received that information?”
It is unclear why either would deny such a conversation.
In any case, it appears that someone else may have been responsible for ferrying that information to Solan. But if Solan knew this, then it is unclear why he and up to 10 other officers would have stayed in a building that was allegedly to be the target of an attack that could very well prove deadly to those inside.
Finally, when questioned about a person allegedly carrying a box of Molotov cocktails — the person police never targeted for arrest during the protest — Allen states that “I have no awareness of any such individual.” This again undermines the OPA’s claim that SPD officers targeted this person for arrest and that officers were aware of this person’s presence during the protest.
Moreover, when Grba shows him a video SPD put out to officers after the protest in order to find the person, Allen states that he has never seen the video. The video, based on the dialogue in Allen’s interview, appears to suggest it contains footage later put out by SPOG that shows the person recently arrested in connection with the box of Molotov cocktails SPD said it found after the protest. Again, the Emerald wrote about this person in the context of the federal complaint against him. That story is linked above.
To further cement this fact for readers, Grba asks, “And at the time that you were taking the actions you were taking to go in to make — to effectuate the arrest, ultimately to disperse the crowd and move them out, were you aware of somebody who looked like that and had a — a box full of Molotov cocktails?”
Allen replies, “No.” He follows this up with the statement, “And when Lieutenant Arata from ABS [Arson Bomb Squad] arrived, he told me the protesters left a box of Molotov cocktails at the SPOG Office, and he sent me a photo so I would know what they look like. So that’s when I — I think the first time I saw the photo of a box of them.”
He then confirms to Grba that he never clapped eyes on the person responsible for said box and never saw a picture of this person.
When Grba questions Allen regarding dispersal orders and direction intent, Allen replies that the goal was simply to keep the protesters moving. He did not have a specific destination in mind. This runs counter to the OPA’s claim in the DCM that officers planned to have the protesters end up at Judkins Park, which the Emerald briefly noted in its first story about the 2020 Labor Day protest is several miles away from SPOG headquarters.
In the course of wrapping up, Grba asks Allen again about officer uses of force against protesters and whether Allen, as the day’s incident commander, felt the uses of force were appropriate. Allen responds that “from my perspective, it looked like we took appropriate action.”
Grba then asks again about prior directions to officers with regards to uses of force, such as blast balls, in the course of crowd dispersal. To recap, he says, “you don’t recall specifically ordering anyone to release blast balls or pepper spray or OC spray” during the protest.
“That’s correct,” Allen replies. He then clarifies that “just to be specific to what you said, whether I discussed it or it was discussed by Lieutenant Brooks, it — the topic would have been discussed at roll call.
“I may not have been the one — because I think you just said and I discussed it at roll call. The topic would have been discussed at roll call, whether I gave it or Lieutenant Brooks gave it, but we would have gone over that in the roll call presentation,” Allen continues.
The Emerald would like to remind readers that OPA investigators never interviewed Brooks.
Grba asks Allen whether he believes his own and his officers’ actions that day undermined public trust in SPD. Allen tells Grba he does not believe that, particularly because the public didn’t have the information that he and other commanding officers allegedly had. In particular, he said, they “couldn’t allow this incendiary device to be lobbed against the — the building, so we had to take action.
“I think if the public understood that we had this information and understood that we were trying to make a targeted arrest of this individual with this device … I think the public would have a better understanding as to what exactly took place there and that we had an obligation to try to effect that arrest and not allow that incendiary device to be detonated,” Allen states.
Again, the person supposedly targeted for arrest was not, apparently, carrying an incendiary device. However, because the OPA failed to interview any intelligence officer, it’s unclear why officers targeted this person for arrest. Additionally, again: During the protest, officers never targeted for arrest the person who has recently been accused as having and abandoning Molotov cocktails outside SPOG and when they did move in for a “targeted” arrest, they went after multiple people.
Finally, Grba and Perkins ask Allen again about the intelligence regarding someone carrying an incendiary device. Allen reads to Perkins from his statement, in order to answer the question about a specific time stamp for intelligence communications. He tells Grba that BMV should suffice to help support the idea of a targeted arrest.
As noted at the beginning of this article, the OPA did not answer a list of detailed questions the Emerald sent to the oversight agency on April 4. Interim Dir. Gráinne Perkins’ email bounced back an automated reply directing the Emerald to contact Assistant Dir. Katelyn Wieliczkiewicz. Wieliczkiewicz also did not reply to the Emerald. The Emerald once again reached out to Perkins the following morning on April 5 and received the same automated reply. The Emerald also once again reached out to Wieliczkiewicz, who replied to the Emerald, “Thank you for looping back and checking in. OPA has no comment on this story.”
The Emerald will continue its dive into officer interviews and more in an article appearing tomorrow morning.
Please take a few minutes to tell us your priorities and submit your questions for new OPA director candidates in the Emerald’s current reader poll.
📸 Featured Image: Sgt. John Brooks appears in a screenshot from body worn video recorded by Sgt. Joshua Ziemer during the Labor Day 2020 protest. Ziemer’s hand can be seen to the right, as he gesticulates about the trash bag.
Before you move on to the next story …
The South Seattle Emerald is brought to you by Rainmakers. Rainmakers give recurring gifts at any amount. With around 1,000 Rainmakers, the Emerald is truly community-driven local media. Help us keep BIPOC-led media free and accessible.
If just half of our readers signed up to give $6 a month, we wouldn’t have to fundraise for the rest of the year. Small amounts make a difference.
We cannot do this work without you. Become a Rainmaker today!