Prosecutor declines to charge man who allegedly assaulted teens for stealing ‘Blue Lives Matter’ flag

Posted 12/31/69

A 48-year-old Port Townsend man won’t face charges for an alleged assault of two teens who were accused of stealing a “Blue Lives Matter” flag in early August.

The man was …

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Prosecutor declines to charge man who allegedly assaulted teens for stealing ‘Blue Lives Matter’ flag

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A 48-year-old Port Townsend man won’t face charges for an alleged assault of two teens who were accused of stealing a “Blue Lives Matter” flag in early August.

The man was initially arrested on potential charges of second-degree robbery after police said he took two skateboards and a cell phone belonging to the teens after one of them allegedly swiped the flag from his garage and walked away with it.

In an Aug. 7 email to the arresting officer, Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney James Kennedy said he was “declining to charge” the man with any crimes.

The prosecuting attorney’s decision follows an Aug. 6 encounter in which officers arrested the Port Townsend man after he said a pair of teens came onto his property and stole a “Thin Blue Line” flag, often associated with and flown during “Blue Lives Matter” demonstrations.   

In the altercation with the teens, the man told responding officers that he chased after the pair to retrieve his flag — which had been damaged in the theft — and in doing so pinned one of the teens to the ground.

“He then began beating on her while she was on the ground and yelling at them. [He] then took their skateboards and walked back to his residence with [the male’s] phone after they followed him back,” said an incident report from Port Townsend police.

Another teen attempted to intervene and told police that the man punched him, as well. Officers noted that the boy “had blood on his arm and possibly an injured nose.” Blood was also found on the girl’s clothing.

“I ran up to them, took my flag back, took their stuff,” the homeowner told police in an interview recorded on an officer’s body camera. “I ran up behind her, took her down, took my flag and said, ‘Who do you think you are taking my stuff off my property?’ ... I said, ‘I’m going to take your stuff, you can see what it’s like to have your stuff taken.’” 

In an Oct. 9 phone call, Kennedy said all parties involved had exhibited “bad behavior.”

“The two individuals who stole his flag should not have done that, and they committed a crime when they did that,” Kennedy said.

“The law does allow for limited applications of force in defense of property, which I am certain [the homeowner] would have argued,” he added.

Ultimately, Kennedy said, it came down to whether he felt a jury would vote to convict the homeowner based on the evidence at hand.

“At first it sounded like the force he applied may have been excessive — some of the reports that we looked at sounded like that might have been the case — but when I looked at the photographs, I didn’t see any indications of injuries that were the result of excessive force,” Kennedy explained. “I don’t think that we reasonably could’ve obtained a verdict beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.”

Despite some of the photos showing blood on the teens’ clothing, arms and hands following the altercation, the prosecutor said the presence of blood is not always a clear indicator of whether excessive force was used.

“[The use of force was] certainly unfortunate, I think it could’ve been resolved without that,” Kennedy said. “Whether he was within his right to apply force or not is highly questionable. However, having reviewed all of the evidence, I don’t think that it is likely that we would’ve been able to obtain a guilty verdict at trial.”

The case against the juveniles was fairly cut and dry.

“The case against [the homeowner] is muddy; the case against the two juveniles is not at all. I could’ve just as easily brought cases against them,” Kennedy said. “They clearly stole his flag without any sort of legal justification whatsoever.”

Kennedy said when considering any case for charging, he refers only “to the facts and the law, and that’s it.”

The prosecuting attorney added that he was unaware the stolen flag was in support of police because details related to the flag and its message were not included in the reports he received.   

“This is a case that involved non-governmental actors on both sides,” Kennedy said. “I don’t see how this would apply to a Blue Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter issue at all, whatsoever.”

Neither of the teens involved in the incident are facing prosecution, according to Barbara Carr, Juvenile Court Administrator for Jefferson County.

One of the teens, Carr said, entered into a diversion agreement and the other has since moved out of state.

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