SEATTLE - The KING 5 Investigators have uncovered a disturbing video-tape captured on five different security cameras underneath downtown Seattle.
It shows the graphic beating of a teenage girl in Seattle's Metro bus tunnel, while uniformed security guards simply look on.
The trouble started above ground around 7 p.m. on January 28.
According to police reports, a group of teenagers approached a 15-year-old girl they knew inside Macy’s. The encounter turned antagonistic and moved on to the downtown Nordstrom. The group of 10 teenagers allegedly surrounded the girl and gave her a bad time about what she was wearing. According to police, one in the group threatened her by stating, “Bitch, I’ll kill you.”
The security camera video picks up the scene as the group of teenagers are seen heading into the Metro tunnel at the Westlake Station, apparently following the girl who had been threatened. One of the girls in the group, a 15-year-old who attends McClure Middle School in Seattle, approaches and within a few seconds, without warning, she pushes the victim off the platform and into the bus lanes.
The video shows the two girls hitting each other for a few seconds. Then, the scene gets vicious. The young attacker punches the victim in the head and face 10 times.
"It looks like a very egregious assault, which in fact it was," said Sgt. John Urquhart of the King County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the case along with Metro Transit Police. "The two were acquaintances, and there probably is some teenage stuff going on (before the attack) but it certainly doesn’t warrant an assault like this by any stretch of the imagination."
The video clearly shows that all of this is taking place right in front of three security guards. They are well marked with bright yellow jackets that have SECURITY written on the back. While the victim is on the ground getting punched, the guards immediately reach for their radios and call for help, but they do little else.
After the victim is punched, the attack gets worse. The suspect then kicks the girl’s face and stomps on her head six times. The guards make no attempt to get in the middle of the girls or to pull the attacker away. One guard is seen in the distance looking on. He never approaches the scene. Another guard turns his back on the assault. The third stands just inches from the girls, looking on.
And the beating isn’t over. The attacker comes back without anyone trying to restrain her and stomps on the motionless girl’s head one final time.
The attacker and her crew of 10 others - eight boys and young men, and two girls - run up the tunnel escalators.
One of them is clutching the purse he stole from the unconscious teen. Two others have stolen her cell phone and iPod.
A woman who witnessed the entire ordeal from her seat in a bus parked in the tunnel talked to KING 5.
"All of the passengers, we were all up against the side looking, like, who is going to do something? Do something, do something!" said the witness. "Why on earth are there three security guards standing there watching it? And actually allowing her to come back and kick her in the head again!"
When the beating is over, you see on the tape that not one guard bends down to see if the victim is breathing or needs help.
"Really? You've got three male security guards and there's a young girl getting kicked in the head, lying on the ground, motionless? And they couldn't do anything? Doesn't seem like security," said the witness.
The guards are not trained police officers or Metro Transit employees. They're contract workers from Olympic Security Services out of Tukwila. KING 5 attempted to reach them today but didn’t receive a return phone call.
According to their contract, the guards are to "observe and report" problems, not to get involved. Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond says that policy is now out of date.
"You look at what's happening to the victim and you say something got to be changed," said Desmond. "That's just not going to be acceptable. We've had that ‘observe and report’ for years in our contract and this incident clearly shows that we need to change that."
Metro Transit has launched a review to see what powers they should give the guards. They’re working with the King County Sheriff's Office to figure out how best to change the protocols.
"You don't see that kind of thing in Seattle. But it does happen. The question is how do we respond and how do we prevent it from happening in the future?" said Urquhart.
People who’ve seen the tape say common decency, not contract language, should have prevailed in this case.
"If you're not there to help out in these circumstances, then why are you there?" said the witness.
Metro Transit Police and King Co. Sheriff’s deputies worked around the clock to track down the suspects. School yearbooks, MySpace pages and Facebook helped lead them to those involved. Four people have been arrested so far, including the female attacker. A 17-year-old male is still at large.
Police say that amazingly the victim is going to be OK.