Seattle business owner says CHOP protesters threatened to kill him for detaining thief, arsonist

A sign reads "Capitol Hill Occupied Protest" in an area that has been referred to by protesters by that name as well as "Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or CHOP, on June 14, 2020, in Seattle, Washington. Black Lives Matter protesters have continued demonstrating in what was first referred to as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, which encompasses several blocks around the Seattle Police Departments vacated East Precinct, but what protesters are now calling the "Capitol Hill Organized Protest." | David Ryder/Getty Image

A Seattle business owner whose auto shop was broken into by a CHOP protester that stole money and started a fire in the building says he repeatedly called 911 but police never arrived even though the business is located outside the "autonomous zone."

John McDermott, the owner of Car Tender, said he and his son were left to defend their business as protesters knocked down a fence at the auto shop and threatened to kill them and their employees if they didn't release a man who had stolen money, car keys, and started a fire at their business Sunday night. 

The suspect, who has since been arrested and charged with alleged arson and vandalism, has been identified as 21-year-old Richard Hanks. 

The McDermotts told news station KIRO that the suspect, who entered the building by breaking a window to get inside, poured hand sanitizer all over cassette tape film and the auto shop's front counter to ignite the fire. Fortunately, the McDermotts walked in just after the fire had been started and were able to extinguish the flames.

Mason McDermott temporarily detained the Hanks, who struck him multiple times with a box cutter as he attempted to flee with stolen hard drives, checks and other property. While the box cutter slashed McDermott's clothes, he did not sustain any injures from the weapon.  

McDermott and his father said they called 911 as many as 19 times, but police never arrived. They eventually had to release Hanks, who took off with the stolen goods after protesters showed up at their property, demanding his release. 

Although Mason McDermott believes police want to protect Seattle residents and businesses in and around the so-called Capitol Hill Organized Protest, he says they can't because of politics.

Previously known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, CHOP is based around the Seattle Police Department's now-closed East Precinct.

The elder McDermott and his wife had just returned home from an anniversary dinner when he got a call from neighbors near the auto shop who witnessed someone breaking into the business. When he and his son arrived, they first thought it was a false alarm.

"We were notified by some neighbors at the property here that someone was in our parking lot swinging a hammer around and trying to break into the building," Mason McDermott told The Epoch Times in an interview on Monday.

"We headed over here immediately, and we called the authorities to let them know we were coming here. Once we did that, we showed up here and it appeared to be fine, And then, we went to the front door and the building was on fire. My dad put the fire out and I caught someone who was in the building with their stuff who was trying to break out."

He added: "We called the police a number of times and there was no response. They never showed up. It's really disheartening; when you call, you hope they show up. And we know they (the police) want to be here for us but they can't, due to politics. Maybe the mayor's office and governor's office can come together to form some kind of solution and allow the police force to come back and help the citizens here because they're wanted, they're needed, and they want to be here."

McDermott said that a mob of protesters who descended on their business were "threatening to kill us if we didn't let the guy go that we caught for trying to burn down our building."

"We were waiting for the police to show up and they never came," McDermott added. 

At a news briefing on Monday, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said officers responded to the call, but instead of going to the scene they "observed from a distance."

"The officers responded to the call and they observed the location from a distance. They did not see any signs of smoke or fire or anything else and they did not see a disturbance," Best said, according to the Seattle Times. "The officers did not observe, from the report that I read, anything they perceived as a threat to life safety and they did not go in."

Best pushed back on suggestions that Seattle is now a cop-free zone, but reiterated the department's earlier admission that response times to the area following 911 victim reports of rapes and robberies have been delayed or even worse, not responded to at all.

"It's taking three times longer to get there. We can't continue in that vein. It's really untenable," she said.

The police chief added that the Seattle Police Department would respond to life-threatening calls inside CHOP, but in other cases, dispatchers and officers will only meet with crime victims or callers outside the CHOP boundary if it's "feasible, reasonable and safe to do so."

"We do not want to escalate, under the current situation, any potential danger to the community and put them unnecessarily in harm's way," Best said, noting that police still haven't been able to return to the East Precinct that's under CHOP occupation.

In response to inquiries into why the Fire Department also didn't respond, Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said the department must first get authorization from the police department before it enters CHOP. But he didn't know why they weren't called in since McDermott's business is outside the autonomous zone.

He added that there wasn't any fire damage to the property except the counter that was lit on fire and the business owner was able to extinguish it.

A resident who lives in the Capitol Hill area that's under CHOP occupation told the Daily Caller in an interview where his identity was concealed that he fears for his life and often hears gunshots and "screams of terror" at night.  

"I'm scared," Brandon said. "I've been scared every day since Sunday, and I haven't gotten a lot of sleep. For the first time in my life in Capitol Hill, I hear gunshots every single night. I've heard people screaming every single night outside. And they're not protest screams … I've also heard screams of terror out there, and I don't know what's happening out there."

Brandon also recounted watching a standoff between rioters and police and hearing a protest leader on a megaphone "loudly and calmly" urge police to kill themselves by repeatedly saying the words "Seattle police, pull out your guns and commit suicide" over-and-over again. 

"It sounded like the devil," he said, because the man was so calm. 

When asked about the city's future, Brandon indicated that the situation is hopeless and said he plans to move as soon he's able to freely enter and exit his apartment building without fearing harassment or violence. 

"I have no hope this will return to normal. Because my mayor, Mayor [Jenny] Durkan, was on TV and she called this the 'summer of love.' At the same exact time, our Police Chief, Carmen Best, did a press conference saying it was taking them an hour to respond to 911 calls for rape and robberies. ... This is not civil unrest; this is some kind of anarchist homegrown movement. It will never go back to normal."

Follow Melissa Barnhart on Twitter: @MelBarnhart

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