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Misdemeanor charges recommended against man in Trump hat who brandished gun during Woodinville protests

Nov. 6, 2020 Updated Fri., Nov. 6, 2020 at 9:59 p.m.

By Lewis Kamb Seattle Times

A King County detective recommended potential criminal charges this week against a Bellevue man who was captured on video wearing a Trump hat and pointing a handgun at political opponents during a confrontation in downtown Woodinville last month.

King County sheriff’s Det. Tracey Dodd presented her investigation to Woodinville prosecutors on Wednesday, recommending the man face misdemeanor charges under state laws that prohibit displaying a gun to intimidate people and aiming a dangerous weapon at others, the detective’s probable cause affidavit shows.

“Any number of people could have been hurt in this incident and a slip or a sudden move could have resulted … in tragedy,” Dodd’s affidavit states.

Sarah Roberts, whose firm handles prosecutions for Woodinville, said Thursday she expects to have a decision within the next week or so.

“Regardless of what charges they recommend, we will review the case thoroughly and make an independent decision,” Roberts said.

The 31-year-old suspect did not respond to messages left for him on Thursday. The Seattle Times generally does not name criminal suspects until they have been charged.

The matter under review stems from an Oct. 24 clash outside a retail area in downtown Woodinville that erupted after two groups of people had been waving signs, yelling at passing motorists and otherwise publicly demonstrating for or against their preferred presidential candidates, Republican President Donald Trump and Democrat former Vice President Joe Biden.

A video clip of the confrontation that was widely shared across social media shows a chaotic scene as members of the rival groups grab, shout and swear at each other while the man – donning a camouflage ball cap with “TRUMP” emblazoned in yellow block letters – brandishes a handgun. The man points the gun at others, including directly into the video taken by an anti-Trump demonstrator, before a woman he’s with pushes him away from the skirmish.

Witnesses told the detective the confrontation occurred when the group of Trump supporters began to leave. As the suspect was walking past Biden supporters – most of them teenagers and young adults – he lifted his shirt to show a handgun in a waistband holster, the witnesses said.

Then, after an unidentified male ran up and flung liquid from a bucket onto the suspect and ran off, the suspect “immediately drew his gun from his waistband, cocked it and ran after the male,” the affidavit states. When the suspect returned, he continued to display and point the gun at other Biden supporters, “who were all unarmed and still kept his gun out despite several people yelling at him to put the gun away,” the detective wrote.

Videos of the incident gathered by the detective show that the suspect “held the gun pointed straight forward at body level of the people in front of him,” despite a statement the suspect gave that he kept the gun pointed at “high point,” Dodd’s affidavit states.

When Dodd later asked the suspect why he kept his gun out, he told her “at that point the gun was an extension of his arm and he didn’t know why he still had it out and that he should have put it away but didn’t.”

Investigators so far have been unable to find or identify the man who hurled the bucket of liquid, according to Dodd’s affidavit.

“That (the suspect) was assaulted by the throwing of liquid does not support his subsequent actions as reasonable,” the detective wrote.

She recommended charges be filed against the suspect under Washington’s criminal statutes for “unlawful carrying or handling” of firearms and outlawing “aiming or discharging firearms, deadly weapons” – gross misdemeanors punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. The illegal handling offense also can result in revocation of an offender’s concealed pistol license.

Woodinville Police Chief Katie Larson called Dodd’s investigation “very thorough and complete,” noting she had received a flood of emails criticizing her department for what some view as a slow response to hold the suspect accountable.

“The first thing we needed to do was to make sure the scene was safe,” Larson said. Deputies quickly arrived to quell the tensions, she said, “but we also interviewed just about everybody who was there that day.”

Dodd, who typically works in Sammamish, was assigned as the case detective to avoid any perceived conflicts, Larson said. The chief noted Dodd interviewed several witnesses, some of whom were reluctant to give statements, and collected multiple videos of the incident.

“These kinds of investigations take time to do the right way,” Larson said.

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