Tag: Magnolia Patrol Association

Employees at Magnolia Private-Security Firm Have Extensive Criminal Histories

Homeowners in Magnolia hired a private security firm, Central Protection, to drive around their neighborhood in Humvees and protect them from property crimes they say the Seattle Police Department has failed to adequately address. Under the umbrella of the Magnolia Patrol Association, homeowners pay about $250 a year for supplementary protection and peace of mind that they have more eyes on the street preventing car prowls, break-ins, drug sales, and other crimes. Other neighborhoods, such as Queen Anne, are poised to follow suit, arguing that the extra private guards keep them safer than police alone. (Magnolia Patrol president Joe Villarino did not respond to questions about Central Protection.)

Earlier this month, however, an incident in which a Central Protection guard named James Toomey pepper-sprayed, handcuffed, and detained a convenience-store clerk (a Magnolia resident who had recently started living in his car) called into question whether the private patrols were keeping residents safe, or victimizing innocent bystanders in the war between neighbors and property criminals. After the incident, I reported that Toomey was convicted of a felony, forgery, and violating a domestic-violence protection order, a misdemeanor, related to DV charges by his ex-wife, and KIRO reported that he had been charged with assault for pepper-spraying two teenagers in Tacoma.

Now, a review of court documents from across the Puget Sound region reveals that many (at least seven) of Central Protection’s 24 employees (identified as such by a state Department of Licensing database) have extensive criminal records, including charges of sexual assault, domestic violence, resisting arrest, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The sheer number of drug and alcohol charges, not all of which are included here, is noteworthy because one of the primary concerns expressed by homeowners in the press, on social media, and in public meetings is the fact that people, usually homeless people, are using drugs and alcohol in their neighborhoods—and committing crimes like petty theft to get their next fix. Yet many of the people those homeowners have hired to protect them have significant drug- and alcohol-related criminal histories themselves.

What follows is a partial accounting of the criminal records of current Central Protection employees, many of whom are patrolling Magnolia, keeping it “safe,” today.

Except in the case of Central Protection owner Denis Kurdija, I have kept the individual security guards anonymous because they are not currently involved in any disputes related to their work patrolling neighborhoods on behalf of organizations like the MPA. Kurdija did not return a call for comment.

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Kurdija, the Central Protection owner, was arrested for sexual assault after a former employee at the Belltown nightclub he owns, the Sarajevo Lounge, called 911 late one night in 2013. According to a Seattle police report, Kurdija allegedly invited the woman and a female friend to his apartment near the club, invited her into his bedroom, locked the door and, according to the report “threw her on the be [and] tried to kiss and feel her up.  The alleged victim told police she told Kurdija “no” and tried to leave, but he grabbed her by the throat, “told her to leave and not contact him again, [and] then shoved her away by the throat.” The report goes on to recount a similar scene in the club itself later that  night, when the woman and her friend returned to Sarajevo Lounge to find their friends; at that point, the report says, the woman said Kurdija “grabbed her again by the throat and told security to escort her from the club.” She called police shortly thereafter. (The friend gave a nearly identical account of the night’s events to police.)

Kurdija was arrested for assault and released for $3,000 bail. He pled not guilty and a no-contact order was approved in August, and eventually pled guilty to a misdemeanor, which allowed him to stay out on probation as long as he went to treatment (what kind is unspecified in the available court records) and didn’t violate the terms of his probation; although court records indicate he didn’t finish treatment in time and  indeed “fell asleep in class,” he eventually did and his case was finally dismissed last month.

Kurdija pled guilty to carrying a concealed gun without a license in 2010. He was also charged with using drug paraphernalia in Snohomish County in 2008, but that charge was dropped.

But it isn’t just Kurdija who brings a criminal history to Magnolia (and other neighborhood) streets. Many of his employees have records that would likely disqualify them from actual police work, according to Seattle Police Department spokesman Sean Whitcomb, including DUIs, assaults, and allegations of domestic violence.

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One Central Protection employee, whom we’ll call Tom, 38, was in trouble with local law enforcement as a young man as far back as 1997, when he was charged with resisting arrest and being a minor in possession of alcohol, as well as unlawful possession of a weapon, in Lynnwood. (He pled guilty to the latter charge and the former was eventually dismissed). Also that year, he was charged separately with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He was caught with pot and, presumably, a pipe again later that year and found guilty of possession. A few years later, in 2001, he was caught driving with a suspended license and paid a fine.

These old charges are relevant because in 2008, when he was about 31, Tom was charged with driving under the influence, which was later reduced to negligent driving. A few years later, in 2013, he was convicted of still another DUI, after an officer saw him weaving from side to side on the road, pulled him over, and “observed the driver’s watery bloodshot eyes as well as the obvious odor of intoxicants and marijuana emanating from within his vehicle,” according to the police report.

Because it was his second offense, Tom was given a suspended year-long sentence, (he served a little over three weeks, according to court records) and was required to wear an ankle bracelet, go through an alcohol assessment and treatment, use an ignition interlock device on his car, and attend a victims’ impact panel. He was put on work release and ordered not to use drugs or alcohol on October 14, 2015.

Tom, according to court records, violated those terms almost immediately, testing positive for cocaine on December 1, 2015, which landed him back in jail. He is now back on patrol for Central Protection.

• Another Central Protection employee—we’ll call him Mark—who is 33, was charged with DUI in 2001 and required to undergo a drug and alcohol assessment as a condition of his release before trial. (He was also charged with being a minor in possession of alcohol, though that charge was dismissed).

After failing to go in for his assessment and then failing to show up in court (he said he was sick), a warrant was issued for his arrest and he bailed out for $1,000. Eventually, he pled guilty to the DUI but then failed to appear again, claiming he had taken the wrong bus. He failed to show up a third time (his attorney said he didn’t know why he wasn’t there), was booked in the Issaquah jail, and bonded out for $5,000 this time. Finally, he was sentenced and required to complete a six-month drug treatment program, go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, use an ignition interlock device, undergo periodic drug and alcohol tests, and pay a $1,355 fine.

Court records indicate that he never did pay the fine, which was still in collections ten years later, when the case was dismissed.

In 2004, Mark was again charged with driving under the influence in Renton, and pled guilty to negligent driving with the condition that he would attend AA meetings and undergo alcohol evaluation.

In 2007, Mark was charged in Kirkland with driving with a suspended license and again repeatedly failed to show up for court, resulting in multiple warrants for his arrest and escalating bail after he failed to show up to serve his 30-day jail sentence.  That verdict required him to install an ignition interlock device in his car, to abstain from alcohol and drugs, to undergo an assessment for alcohol dependence, and other conditions, which he did  not do.  Eventually, he served some jail time, agreed to go through a 12-month treatment program and attend AA meetings, but also failed repeatedly to comply with those requirement, according to Kirkland court records. He also failed again, repeatedly, to show up in court, boosting his bail at one point to $15,000—an unusually high bail for a DUI case. That case was finally closed in 2013 after Mark completed his required jail time.

In the meantime, however,, in 2012, Mark had been jailed again in Renton for failing to have the required ignition interlock device and for driving with a suspended license (which had been suspended two years earlier for unpaid tickets) after causing an accident and leaving the scene; Mark was also ticketed for following too closely and for having no insurance.

• A different Central Protection employee, whom I’ll call Arthur, 45, was arrested and charged with domestic violence assault and issued a no-contact order in 1998; that case was dismissed when the woman who accused Arthur of domestic violence declined to testify against him and asked to have the order withdrawn (a relatively common occurrence in domestic violence cases when the defendant and the accuser are in an ongoing relationship). Since then, his record has been relatively clean except for traffic violations.

• Another Central Protection employee, Dan, 27, was arrested in 2010 for driving under the influence while speeding, and pled guilty to reckless driving in 2011. As a condition of his plea, his license was suspended, and he was subsequently charged with driving with a suspended license. In a separate case in Kitsap County for which most records have been destroyed, he was charged with malicious mischief in 2011 and pled guilty to a lesser misdemeanor charge.

• Finally, yet another Central Protection employee, Todd, 24, was the subject of a sexual-assault protection order by an ex-girlfriend, who was 14 at the time (Todd was 18) and claimed that Todd was harassing her and her family and would not leave her alone. In the request for the order, which was granted after a Snohomish County Superior Court judge determined that “by a preponderance of the evidence that a sexual assault has occurred,” the parents said they had ordered the girl not to see the older teenager because of the “age gap and his academic, legal … history [ellipsis in original]” and that he had manipulated her emotionally and given her an STD. In statements supporting the protection order, the girl’s friends described him as “dangerous,” threatening, and verbally abusive.

Also in 2011, Todd was charged with resisting arrest and with being a minor in possession of alcohol—specifically, a bottle of vodka he had set down on the pavement outside a large party in Marysville.

This is by no means a comprehensive account of the criminal records of all Central Protection employees. A few employees were hard to identify in court records because they have common names, and many records were no longer available or are still being produced through the public-records process. Cumulatively, though, the extensive criminal records of some employees of this private security firm are noteworthy and could give some residents of Magnolia, as well as other neighborhoods that are thinking about hiring private security guards to “supplement” protection by Seattle police, pause. Perhaps the $250,000 Magnolia residents reportedly spend on their private security force would be better spent funding shelter and services for the homeless population in their neighborhood.

Asked about SPD’s own hiring requirements and background-check process, SPD’s Whitcomb says new police hires go through a “meticulous” background check that takes “weeks, sometimes longer, and that is because we want to make sure we are getting the best candidates possible.” SPD hiring standards automatically disqualify any applicant who has gotten a DUI within the past five years, any felony conviction, or any domestic-violence conviction, but Whitcomb says the department can also exclude candidates for other factors, such as multiple DUIs that are more than five years in the past.

“When we’re talking about criminal history, it doesn’t have to be a conviction,” Whitcomb says. “If someone is involved in a number of different events but not convicted or not arrested, these are things that will be weighed as they seek employment with us. … With domestic violence, let’s say it wasn’t a conviction but it resulted in an arrest and perhaps charged, that would be scrutinized closely.” Having two or three DUIs on your record, no matter how long ago, “would probably be a disqualifier” as well, Whitcomb says.

Whitcomb says he can’t comment on the hiring practices of a separate business, but adds that, in general, “Anyone who is conducting security in the city does have to understand that the law applies to everyone. There’s no special dispensation for uniformed security.”

Magnolia Pepper-Spray Guard Pleads “Complete Fear for My Life” from Sleeping Victim

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Pepper-spray victim Andrew Harris’ car, whose front window security guard James Toomey said was “so tinted that I couldn’t see inside” without stopping to approach the vehicle

A couple of updates about the Central Protection security guard, hired by the private Magnolia Patrol Association, who pepper-sprayed, handcuffed, and detained Andrew Harris, a neighborhood employee and resident who is currently living in his car. Magnolia homeowners pay the MPA to hire security to patrol the neighborhood, which some believe has become a hotbed of drug and property crime.

 

First, the following is a letter posted on NextDoor that is described as Toomey’s report to his supervisor at Central Protection. The letter differs in numerous key ways from both Harris’ description of events and what Toomey himself told police at the time.

Toomey, as I first reported, pled guilty to forgery (a felony) and violating a no-contact order (a gross misdemeanor) in a case related to domestic violence charges by his ex-wife in 2004. As part of his sentencing, he was required to complete treatment for domestic violence and anger management. As a felon, Toomey had his gun privileges revoked but managed to get a court to restore them in 2011. In 2014, KIRO 7 has since reported, Toomey was  arrested and charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault for pepper-spraying two teenagers and slamming one of the teens’ head on the ground in Tacoma. In that case, as with Harris’, Toomey claimed he thought his victims were “doing drugs,” according to KIRO. He was sent back to anger management classes and the charges were supposed to be dropped in 2017 as long as he didn’t break the law.

Here’s that account (sic throughout):

While beginning patrol through 27th street I was flagged down by two males in a car with reflective vests on (Assuming workers from one of the Companies back here off of 27th ) They pointed down and informed me of an Old Silver Toyota had been parked on the side by Commodore for several hours and a white male inside possibly smoking some sort of drugs out of a glass bubble pipe

I thanked them for the information and told them I would check it out. i immediately saw the vehicle when i turned on 27th side of the street “27th ” before hitting Commodore. I drove past it several times attempting to see who was inside and what they were doing.

The vehicle unfortunately had tinted windows – So tinted that I couldn’t see inside while driving past. So I ended up driving behind the vehicle and took pictures of the license plate and make of vehicle.

It was a Silver Toyota Celica License plate # …

After taking the pictures I got out to investigate who was inside the vehicle and what they were doing. I got out and walked up to the driver’s side window, I immediately saw a white male with blankets over him and what looked like some sort of glass pipe.

I knocked on the window and said, “Sir Hello, Sir are you okay? At first the male didn’t move at all, and I thought to myself hopefully he didn’t overdose or something. So I continued to knock and yell out, t’ Hello sir, are you okay, hello?”

I then got worried about the male because no matter how many times I knocked or called out to him he never even moved. So now I was worried if he was even alive. So I figured to try to see if his driver’s side door was unlocked and attempting to do a Health & Welfare check on the male but right as I grabbed the door handle he jumped up and came to and gave me the finger and told me to ” FUCK OFF and told me to leave him alone!” I then informed him that the people from the businesses had reported you and want you to leave because they stated that they saw you doing drugs and you’ve been here for several hours. That’s the only reason I am even checking on you, because the City of Magnolia has contracted security to patrol the entire City and to investigate any suspicious RV’s or vehicles. Plus I was very concerned about your welfare because you didn’t move at all.

He didn’t care nor listen to me he just continued to give me the “finger” while cussing me out. So I left and walked back to my patrol vehicle and called 911.

911 Operator asked if I would be waiting or in the area when Officers arrive. I said, Yes I’m patrolling but will still be in the area if needed.

I then left and drove up 27th a couple blocks and parked on the side while updating my report. I continued to watch the Silver Toyota from my Rear view mirror.

All of a sudden the male started pulling around and raced up directly behind me. I immediately got scared about what he was about to do. As he was walking up to my driver’s side door he was yelling and cursing saying, ” MOTHER FUCKERS IVE FUCKING HAD IT YOU MOTHER FUCKERS HARASSING ME!” As he was yelling this he grabbed my door and ripped it open and started to grab me pulling me out while cursing me I then knocked his hands away from me and pulled out my pepper spray and started to spray his face. I was in complete fear for my life at this moment. He then stumbled towards his vehicle and then turned towards me yelling and screaming again attempting to grab me. I pepper sprayed him again and turned him around to handcuff him.

I handcuffed him and called 911 again. This time to update them that now the suspicious male that I had just reported to police just several minutes ago drove up behind me and ripped open my door and attacked me. I informed them that I had pepper sprayed him and currently have him in handcuffs.

911 operator sent Fire Department to clean the pepper spray off the males face and sent Police officers. Fire Department arrived on scene and asked what had happened. They washed the males face off and then we all waited for police officers to arrive.

Police officers finally arrived after about a 35 min wait. They asked me as to what happened, after I explained they walked over and interviewed the male. The Police officers then explained to me that they have called their supervisor to come down, because it was my word against his word, and the male in question was3atinE completely different things. Officers said, “It was a He said/She said incident.
Officer Norton # 7436
Case # 16-74839

The Police Supervisor stated to the male and I that we were free to go and they are not arresting anyone and they were just going to tum this report into the King County prosecutor to see if anything would be filed. Before leaving scene I was informed that the male is homeless and lives in his vehicle and currently works at the Shell Gas Station in Magnolia directly across from the Starbucks off of McGraw.

I left scene and made contact with Executive Director of Magnolia Patrol Joe Villarino & Central Protection Security Manager Denis.

This account differs in a few key ways from Harris’ description of events. First, Harris says Toomey attempted to open his door, not the other way around. Second, Harris said he was sleeping in his car, not smoking unspecified drugs. No pipe was recovered from Harris’ car, and Toomey did not mention anything about drugs or a pipe in his official account to the Seattle Police Department. In that version of events, Toomey said he saw Harris sleeping, knocked on the door, got into a “verbal argument” with Harris, then “drove up the street.” Toomey told SPD Harris then pulled up behind him, walked to the door and tried to open it, then tried to “grab” Toomey but Toomey easily “‘slapped'” [Harris’] arms away. At this point, Toomey’s account to SPD says, Toomey followed Harris to his car and “the two continued verbally arguing,” Harris “again tried to grab” Toomey, and Toomey shoved him onto the hood of Harris’ car and cuffed him.

For the other discrepancies, both between Toomey’s account and Harris’ and between Toomey’s account in this memo attributed to him and the account he gave to police immediately after the incident, see my original post.

MPA board member Christian Binkley sent this letter out to Magnolia Patrol Association subscribers last week. MPA executive director Joe Villarino had no comment when I asked him about the incident, except that it was under investigation.

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I am writing this letter to you today to share our stance on the incident that occurred recently between one of our contracted neighborhood security staff and a member of the community. We at the association are fully aware of the incident and we remain sensitive to the concerns of the neighborhood we organized to protect, as well as that of the involved community member.

As you can expect, there are two wildly differing accounts of what happened and rest assured we are working closely with local law enforcement and Central Protection to establish the facts of the incident. We owe our supporters and the rest of the community full transparency of the situation once those facts are revealed. We ask that you remain neutral and free from preconceived judgment until that time, regardless of what you may see in the media.

We also owe our supporters continued patrols despite the ongoing investigation into the claims. Part of establishing a community service dedicated to providing the neighborhood with an extra set of eyes on the lookout for nefarious activity is anticipating that these kinds of allegations, whether proven to be true or fabricated, would most likely surface. Prior to the launch, we had evaluated these risks and took the necessary steps to safeguard the service we promised to our contributors and non-contributors within the neighborhood. It would be foolhardy of us to stall the service now leaving the area vulnerable to recidivism and undue criticism, especially since the service has received such widespread news coverage and support from other neighborhoods around the city who are eager to take a stand against criminal activity and victimization with their own patrol programs.

Again, we want to assure all of you that we take this incident very seriously and the neighborhood’s supportive trust is tremendously important to us. Newly released statistics have shown that you and your property are safer now than you have been in in recent years and it is my belief that it is due to the ongoing presence of this service. So many of your neighbors have shared their overwhelming appreciation for the consistent professionalism of our contracted security staff that I feel this association, partnered with that continued supportive trust that I mentioned, can grow into a model of communal solidarity and protection. The association makes you and your property’s safety our foremost priority and we will continue to offer everyone in the neighborhood the added security you asked us to provide.

Your Thankful Neighbor,

Christian Binkley
Board Member
Magnolia Patrol Association NPO