A Bellevue police officer is currently under investigation for failing to intervene at the scene of a hate crime. Documents charging the suspect, Robert Panera, with malicious harassment detail the officer’s inaction on January 23.
Bellevue PD spokesperson Officer Seth Tyler told KING 5 that a complaint was filed against Detective Jim Lindquist and an ongoing internal investigation is in its final stages.
"If the allegation is true, there would violations of department policy, but we don't know that yet," said Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett.
The incident unfolded around 2:30 p.m. at the Bellevue Transit Center.
Lindquist was in the area, working as an off-duty flagger at a construction site.
Panera was hurling racial slurs and making threats towards African-American people, according to documents. But that’s not what he said told dispatchers when he called 911.
Three Bellevue officers responded to the transit center and contacted Lindquist. The charging documents say Lindquist “was initially dealing with the parties involved,” but the incident was handed off to the on-duty officers.
The officers spoke to Panera and an “older black male,” who Lindquist told the other officers were involved in an altercation and a third male that took off on a bus, according to charging documents.
They spoke with both men, but “were not able to develop probable cause for a crime that involved the two.” An informational report was filed by one of the officers.
Later that day, the male that left the scene on the bus made contact with a Bellevue Police captain to share his account of the afternoon and say that Panera’s statement was incorrect. Over a phone call, he told the captain he began recording a disturbance between Panera and the other male. Panera saw the caller, who is African-American, recording and began yelling at him, according to documents.
The caller told the captain he approached Lindquist to get assistance. Panera continued to yell racial slurs and even lunged at him, say the documents, until “Panera suddenly stopped, turned and walked away.”
The caller said he felt unsafe and immediately boarded a bus to leave the scene and called 911 once he felt safe back at his home. He provided the police captain with four video recordings, according to the documents.
A witness at the scene told police she saw Panera yelling racial slurs at several people. “He singled out each African American, pointed at them” and yelled at them, according to the charging documents. The witness told the captain she observed Lindquist tell the victim, “this happens all the time.”
According to charging documents, Lindquist failed to tell the responding officers about the racial slurs or threats made by Panera.
"If [officers] are in uniform and they're providing that service, they're on duty and subject to respond and take appropriate action whether they're on the clock here or working an off-duty job," said Mylett.
With the changing face of Bellevue's population, Mylett says he's even more aware of the importance of public trust in the police department. Non-whites now make up the majority of the city.
"We're on our way to building trust in all communities that make up Bellevue, but it's fragile. and all it takes is one incident to either set us back 3, 5, 10 years or lose trust altogether," Mylett said.
Mylett says while he owes his detective due process, he owes the public the truth.
"I will report back to the community exactly what I find," he said.