Crime

Gig Harbor Trump supporter’s tire slashed; vandal says his act was justified

Gig Harbor resident Nathan Eliot’s car was vandalized with rotten food and a slashed tire as a reaction to a Donald Trump bumper sticker.
Gig Harbor resident Nathan Eliot’s car was vandalized with rotten food and a slashed tire as a reaction to a Donald Trump bumper sticker. Courtesy of Nathan Eliot

At first, Nathan Eliot figured the guy behind him was just a lousy driver, following too closely in tight Sunday traffic.

Later, after his tire was slashed and rotten yogurt soaked the interior of his car, Eliot realized he was the target of a political protest, all because of his Donald Trump bumper sticker.

A Gig Harbor police report backs up the account, and Eliot, 29, finds himself in the midst of a viral news story.

The vandal, 21-year-old Riley Siva, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Gig Harbor Municipal Court to a charge of malicious mischief.

That followed his arrest April 11, when, according to the police report, he admitted his actions to an officer and signed a statement admitting he “maliciously attacked a hate symbol protected by free speech.”

The vandal, 21-year-old Riley Siva, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Gig Harbor Municipal Court to a charge of malicious mischief. That followed Siva’s arrest on April 11, when he admitted his actions to a police officer and signed a statement admitting that he “maliciously attacked a hate symbol protected by free speech.”

Police Chief Kelly Busey said Siva “admitted to the whole deal” at the time of his arrest.

“It just shows some of the emotional connection or irrationality of the attachment to these candidates,” Busey said.

Eliot, a six-year veteran of the Air Force, moved to Gig Harbor late last year with his wife, who recently joined the Navy.

On Sunday, Eliot was running errands and picking up groceries at the Olympic Village shopping center. Interviewed Wednesday, he told The News Tribune that he noticed Siva behind him, but thought little of it, even when the other man pulled into the parking lot behind Eliot’s 2016 Ford Focus.

Stepping out of the grocery store, Eliot saw the man leaning over the sunroof.

“On my way back out, I see this guy’s car parked right next to mine,” he recalled. “All of a sudden I see him over my sunroof throwing something into it. I yell, ‘Hey!’ He stops what he’s doing, he gets into his car really quickly, peels out, almost hits two cars.”

On my way back out (of the grocery store), I see this guy’s car parked right next to mine. All of a sudden I see him over my sunroof throwing something into it. I yell, ‘Hey!’ He stops what he’s doing, he gets into his car really quickly, peels out, almost hits two cars.

Nathan Eliot

Eliot called police, who tracked down Siva the next day, after speaking to his parents.

“He (Siva) has an extreme dislike for presidential candidate Donald Trump,” the police report states. “He saw that Eliot had a Trump supporter sticker on his vehicle and said he ‘did maliciously attack’ Eliot’s vehicle because of the Trump sticker.

In a written statement included with the report, Siva explained his reasons:

“After disabling the vehicle (tire slashed) and dumping rotten food into the interior, I feel I have improved the community and supported our nation’s values by stopping a promoter of hate speech.

“I do not wish to have Ignorant Bigots in my town and in a just world the person deserved what was received and the situation was made whole.”

After disabling the vehicle (tire slashed) and dumping rotten food into the interior, I feel I have improved the community and supported our nation’s values by stopping a promoter of hate speech. I do not wish to have Ignorant Bigots in my town and in a just world the person deserved what was received and the situation was made whole.

Riley Siva (statement from police report)

Eliot took a different view of Siva’s actions.

“He felt justified in damaging my personal property,” he said. “He also called me an ignorant bigot and said he did the community a service. The definition of a bigot is somebody who suppresses somebody’s right to express themselves. It goes against everything that we stand for as Americans.

“The freedom my wife puts her uniform on for every day shouldn’t be suppressed.”

After the incident, he took to Twitter, posting a photo of his damaged car and describing Siva as a Bernie Sanders supporter.

Asked Wednesday about the Sanders allegation, Eliot said he thought he saw a sticker on Siva’s car, and said professed Sanders backers have approached him online to say they don’t support vandalism.

The story swiftly gained online traction after it was picked up on the conservative Breitbart News website.

Eliot attended Siva’s arraignment Wednesday, but said he’ll likely miss the next court date, set for May 25.

Eliot is pondering a lawsuit, but he doesn’t think Siva’s behavior reflects on Gig Harbor as a whole.

“We definitely don’t think any less of the community,” he said. “We’ve met a lot of tremendously supportive people.”

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