by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
The constant reports of pickpockets, muggings, and violence in the early morning hours on Capitol Hill reached a fever pitch this year. It is commonplace to read headlines on neighborhood blogs or in Seattle-area newspapers that tell the tale of a Gayborhood in the grip of a crime wave.
Well, this reporter is happy to present you with a story of a victim who refused to let his assailants get away with a crime. The following is a firsthand account from JT Hooker, 32, a local Queer artist and curator who went undercover to help the cops catch two criminals who had it coming.
On November 11, JT left a local Gay bar on E. Madison St. in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. Like so many nights before, JT walked down 14th Ave. to get home. At 6'5' and 225 lbs., JT doesn't exactly fit the profile of someone that would-be thieves would approach.
'I've never felt unsafe at all in Seattle,' JT told Seattle Gay News. 'I moved here from New York City. Seattle seems like a very clean, friendly, and safe city.'
But unlike his usual walks home, things went from bad to worse for JT as he passed in front of a building next to the church on 14th between E. Pike and E. Pine. Since he was familiar with the building - as JT says, 'My friends and I frequently notice people sleeping in the building entryway' - he knew something was about to go down when a man who appeared 'drunk, high, and strung out' approached him.
'My pace quickened,' said JT.
The man asked him for a cigarette and then for money. When JT told the man that he didn't have either, another man approached him from his broadside and began 'erratically asking for money.'
'I felt a quick brush against my ass and the second man took off running,' recalled JT. 'I immediately noticed that my wallet was missing and I tried to chase after the man, but he was gone.'
JT then called his partner, 36, and the Seattle Police Department (SPD). 'The police appeared as though they honestly wanted to help me out and were genuinely concerned about my safety,' said JT.
'Unfortunately, I had between $300-$400 in my wallet since I planned a weekend trip to the Olympics and didn't want to worry about finding an ATM,' he said.
Hours later, the situation went from a run-of-the-mill pickpocketing incident to attempted extortion.
'I received an unlisted phone call from a women claiming to be wheelchair-bound,' explained JT. 'The woman told me she had some of my cards and wanted to arrange for me to meet her son. She specifically mentioned that she did not have a wallet or my cash.'
The phone calls did not stop there. JT says he received a number of other calls from a woman who claimed to be the first caller's caretaker. Each call was short, he said, lasting 'maybe less than 30 second each.' Like the pickpockets from the night before, JT maintains that both women sounded extremely intoxicated or strung out.
'I knew I had to try working with the woman to have any chance of getting my stuff back, so my conversations with her remained calm and cordial,' he said. 'The woman wanted to know that they would be compensated for returning my stolen cards. We agreed for me to meet her son near the scene of the pickpocket.'
The woman called again to change the meeting location to the Dick's on Broadway, said JT. 'She also wanted to know how much they would be compensated for returning my cards - and we agreed on $200.'
JT, with his partner in tow, immediately went to Dick's.
'I asked my partner to stay back and keep watch over the situation,' said JT. 'I did not contact the police at this point because I was afraid of not getting back my stolen credit and insurance cards.'
JT says he quickly changed his mind and realized this was probably not the smartest decision. 'The Seattle Police Department are extremely competent men and women, and their professionalism and involvement was superior during this entire ordeal.'
While at Dick's, JT received a phone call from the woman asking if he was at the meeting point yet. She then advised him that her son was on his way to collect the cash and hand over the cards.
Minutes later, an older, disheveled-looking man (not one of the two men who had pickpocketed him earlier) showed up. JT says he immediately recognized the old man as one of the men who sleep in the doorway of the building where the crime took place. JT's partner recognized the man, as well.
'The man pulled a plastic bag from under his jacket and I immediately noticed my cards were in there,' said JT. 'I told the man to wait at Dick's while I went to get cash from the ATM around the corner.'
As soon as JT turned the corner, he called 911 and asked for police to come to Dick's.
While he was explaining the situation to the 911 operator, a second man walked up to the older man, and JT's partner overheard him say, 'Make sure he doesn't get away. Make sure you get his money.'
The older man then approached JT, who was still on the phone with the police. The operator asked for a description of the man, and JT responded, 'Oh my God, mom! Is Dad OK?' so the operator would know the situation was urgent and the man would think he needed to stay on the phone.
Within minutes, four cop cars showed up.
'I took several steps back from the man and pointed at him for the police,' said JT.
The man's accomplice ran across the street and boarded a city bus. JT's partner alerted the officers and they gave chase, eventually stopping the bus and arresting the man.
But the story doesn't end there.
In a bizarre twist of events, the victim turned crime-stopper now says that he's begun to receive threatening phone calls and has actually seen the two pickpocketers sitting on the stairwell of the building where the crime happened. In addition, the once-cooperative Seattle Police Department has now all but ignored JT's request for a follow-up investigation.
'I received quite a few threatening phone calls in which the caller says, 'We have your address and know where you live,' said JT. The two men who stole from me are still at the exact same spot. Instead of taking down the information to add to the police report, I was told to visit the East Precinct at 12th and Pine. At the precinct, the officer on duty seemed unconcerned when my partner and I tried providing details. We were told that no investigator has been assigned. To date, I have not heard back from the police at all.'
JT says he has no idea whether or not the cops have tried tracing the unlisted calls, perhaps originating from 'where my wallet and cash likely were.'
When asked to describe his opinion of the Seattle Police Department concerning the situation, JT replied, 'The short answer is that the SPD risk their own lives every day to make all our lives safer. & The long, rambling answer? I think we have it mighty nice in Seattle, and my limited personal experience with the SPD showed me that some of them care, and others seem like they might not. I believe the SPD is severely under-funded and over-worked. If I were a cop, my number-one concern would be making sure my own ass and my colleagues' asses don't get capped. The severe economic and homeless problems in Seattle are sad and there are severe systemic issues that are causing people to resort to extreme measures.'
For now, JT says that the threatening phone calls have stopped. 'I have a heightened concern for my safety & but I'm going to be smarter, especially later at night,' he said. 'I'm not going to walk down 14th between Pike and Pine for a while.'
JT promotes and performs at various Queer community and allied causes around Seattle. For more information about JT Hooker, go to http://cbabc.com/hooker.
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