A man accused of assaulting Burien's mayor Saturday has turned himself into police. The attacker was reportedly upset about Burien's sanctuary city policy, and the King County Sheriff's Office is investigating the attack as a possible hate crime.
The 62-year-old suspect was arrested Monday and released pending the outcome of the investigation, according to the Burien Police Department. Charges recommending malicious harassment are expected to be forwarded to the prosecutor's office.
Mayor Jimmy Matta said he was verbally and physically assaulted by an older, white man in the 900 block of SW 152nd Street around 7:30 p.m. during the Olde Burien Block Party event.
"I had this individual who came up, grabbed me from the back of my head, brought me down, hurt the bottom of my arm on the fence," said Matta. "He just kept on spouting, 'I am not going to let Latinos take our community. We are not going to have illegals run this community,' and he threatened me, basically saying I didn't want to mess with him."
Matta is the city's first Latino mayor.
"I just told him, 'Step away from me, leave me alone. I don't want to talk with you anymore,' and he finally left," he said.
Matta said Saturday was not his only encounter with this man. He remembers a run-in earlier this year during a community march in honor of two teenagers who were shot and killed.
"The youth decided to have a march and this individual, basically, I overheard him say, 'I wonder when this Mexican mayor is going to be here to support these illegals.' And I told him you don't have to wonder, I am here," said Matta.
Matta said the man went on to say, "Blood's on your hands for supporting sanctuary city."
A Burien ordinance states city and police personnel will not inquire or collect information about a person's immigration status or religion. Matta said that's what the man was upset about months ago. Then Saturday happened.
"I had a little drip of blood and I was in shock myself. (King County) Prosecutor (Dan) Satterberg was, like, maybe a table away," said Matta.
Police were nearby too, and the mayor filed a report.
"I do believe that it meets the threshold of a hate crime," he said. "This behavior will not be tolerated."
Tuesday, Matta and Burien community leaders held a press conference to speak out against hate. Matta discussed that while he's empowered to report the alleged attack, he worried many similar incidents go unreported.
He hopes the show of solidarity sends a message.
"You know, I think we've got some bad apples in Burien, and across the country and our county that yes, are racist," he said. "But there's some people that are just scared. I've seen it."
He said he can tolerate fear of change, but not hate.