Spokane police are insisting downtown remains safe in the aftermath of a fight sparked Monday night by loitering teenagers.
Officers jailed a 17-year-old suspected of instigating the violence against a man leaving the Steam Plant restaurant as they continue efforts to ensure people feel safe in the city’s business and entertainment hub.
Violent crime is down 25 percent from last year, when several high-profile crimes – including a vicious attack caught on video by a television cameraman – fueled fears that downtown violence was rampant.
Witnesses told investigators that a group of eight to 10 young people in an alley blocked a married couple from driving away from the restaurant after dinner.
The teens eventually moved aside to allow the couple’s van through. As the van passed, one of the teens hit the side with their palm and claimed the man who was driving struck someone in the group, Spokane police Capt. Judi Carl said.
No one was struck by the van, she said.
When the driver got out to see if there were any injuries, he became embroiled in an argument with the teen, who is now in custody, Carl said. The confrontation turned physical, and both sustained injuries that were treated at the scene, she said.
“I think it was a matter of escalated behavior,” Carl said. “I think (the teens) were just being obnoxious to begin with, and it just escalated.”
The wife left the van to check on injuries as well but was not hurt, Carl said. The teenager was the only person arrested Monday night. Charges of fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor, were recommended to juvenile court by police.
“It is an unusual assault because they were not known to each other, and that’s not very typical,” Carl said.
Carl said police were at the scene within two minutes of multiple 911 calls. There’s no evidence to suggest the alleged assault was planned.
“Downtown is a very safe place,” Carl said. If visitors downtown don’t feel safe, she urged them to call her precinct, which can handle an investigation.
“Getting out and confronting someone – I don’t know what kind of angry words were exchanged – there’s always the opportunity to retreat as well,” she said. “When those angry words start to be exchanged, retreat, don’t press the issue.”