Crime

10 arrested outside Northwest Detention Center, Tacoma police say

Teen ‘wasn’t doing anything worthy of arrest,’ father said

John Benner defends his 17-year-old son after the teen was arrested for blocking a roadway in front of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., Tuesday, June 26, 2018.
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John Benner defends his 17-year-old son after the teen was arrested for blocking a roadway in front of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., Tuesday, June 26, 2018.

Ten people were arrested Tuesday evening after about 160 people gathered outside the Northwest Detention Center on Tacoma's Tideflats, according to Tacoma police.

Police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said about 40 of the people protesting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy decided to block the street leading to the facility, which holds undocumented migrants detained by the federal government during deportation proceedings.

After an officer responded about 9:10 p.m. and asked the protesters to clear the roadway one person with a shopping cart jumped in front of the officer's patrol vehicle and refused to move, Cool said. Others began to surround the SUV, so the officer called for immediate backup.

When other officers began to arrive, they tried to arrest the man with the shopping cart, Cool said. Another man jumped onto the back of one of the officers, but was quickly detained.

Several protesters shot cell-phone video and photos of the initial encounter and the fracas that ensued.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">BREAKING: Peaceful protectors at Tacoma ICE immigrant prison swarmed tonight by local police. People tackled, 10 arrested including 1 juvenile. Meanwhile, for-profit prison profiteers GEO Group cage women seeking asylum whose children were ripped away. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AbolishICE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AbolishICE</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OccupyICEnwdc?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OccupyICEnwdc</a> <a href="https://t.co/G5qsmzY6gM">pic.twitter.com/G5qsmzY6gM</a></p>&mdash; 350 Tacoma (@350Tacoma) <a href="https://twitter.com/350Tacoma/status/1011845280168210433?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 27, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Videos shown to a News Tribune reporter show a young man in a dark hoodie pushing a shopping cart in front of the unmarked police SUV and then standing in front of it. At one point, another man moved the cart out of the way and appeared to try to coax the young man, who witnesses said is 17, away from the front of the SUV.

John Benner told The News Tribune on Wednesday that the young man is his son. He said the teenager has joined other people in recent days to protest outside the detention center.

"He didn't think he was doing anything worthy of arrest," Benner said. "I'm proud of my son, and I'm proud of what he's doing."

According to video recordings reviewed by The News Tribune, while some people stood by the police SUV to photograph it, at no point did the vehicle appear surrounded, and activists outside the center Tuesday night said no one intentionally tried to block the street.

Protesters with Occupy NWDC packed up their encampment - protesting Trump administration immigration polices - after being ordered to leave by police and losing support from the neighboring Puyallup Tribe.

"It was a peaceful protest," said Carol Kindt, a retired family law attorney and member of the environmental activist group 350 Tacoma. She was outside the detention center Tuesday night and said police "escalated quickly" after arriving.

"I think they said once to get off the street," Kindt told The News Tribune. "It was noisy and confrontational."

Not long after, marked police cars with emergency lights flashing flooded into the area, the videos showed.

"They just kept coming and coming and coming," said one man who witnessed the event but did not want to give his name.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">multiple arrests of peaceful protestors tonight during our noise action tonight at nwdc <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AbolishICE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AbolishICE</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OccupyICENYC?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OccupyICENYC</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/chingalamigra?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#chingalamigra</a> <a href="https://t.co/SDeY1cINxa">pic.twitter.com/SDeY1cINxa</a></p>&mdash; C:\>vibes.exe (@vibes_exe) <a href="https://twitter.com/vibes_exe/status/1011830457187487744?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 27, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Other videos showed police dragging people away. One showed a woman who witnesses said is in her 60s being thrown to the ground and handcuffed by two officers. She later was filmed in the back of a patrol car.

"I'm not afraid," she said into the camera, punctuating her comment with an expletive aimed at police.

Witnesses said officers seemed to grab people at random, throwing many to the ground before arresting them.

Of the 10 people arrested, one was charged Wednesday with third-degree assault, resisting arrest and obstructing police.

Court records show the 68-year-old Vashon Island man jumped onto the back of an officer who was trying to arrest the 17-year-old boy. Other officers pulled the man off their colleague and tried to handcuff him, documents say, but the man continued to pull his hands away.

He allegedly had a collapsible baton in his pocket when he was arrested. That, prosecutors wrote, might lead to a deadly weapon sentencing enhancement for his third-degree assault charge.

A second man faces similar charges. He is expected in court Thursday. Court records show he grabbed a police officer's utility belt during the incident, pulling his police radio free. The officer then punched him in the face.

The 17-year-old was booked into Remann Hall on suspicion of resisting arrest but was released because the misdemeanor charge is eligible for diversion, said deputy prosecutor Kevin Benton, who oversees juvenile cases. If the teen does not have prior convictions, he automatically will enter a diversion program.

Everyone else arrested was released or scheduled to be released from jail by Wednesday evening.

Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest welcome and give immigrants support from an RV parked outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.

About 25 officers responded to the scene in total, Cool said.

The Northwest Detention Center, which is run by the for-profit Geo Group, is a frequent site of protests against the U.S. government's policies toward undocumented migrants.

Activists started camping in front of the facility Saturday in protest of President Donald Trump's policy of separating children from their parents when the parents are detained for immigration violations.

Protesters have set out to make noise at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. each day to make their presence known to the detained immigrants held at the facility. Officers were dispatched to the center just after Tuesday's demonstration would have been underway.

Also Wednesday, the city of Tacoma gave activists camping outside the detention center a day to remove all the structures erected since a protest began there Saturday.

Notices were posted Wednesday afternoon giving protesters until 6 p.m. Thursday to dismantle any structures they've erected that are in violation of Tacoma Municipal Code, police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said.

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Kenny Ocker: 253-597-8627, @KennyOcker
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644
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