Tukwila Police use tear gas to get looters out of the Target store on Sunday night, May 31. COURTESY PHOTO, Tukwila Police

Tukwila Police use tear gas to get looters out of the Target store on Sunday night, May 31. COURTESY PHOTO, Tukwila Police

Looters break into 26 Tukwila businesses Sunday night; 9 arrests made

‘What happened in Tukwila was not a protest, it was coordinated looting,’ police say

Approximately 26 Tukwila businesses were broken into and police arrested nine suspects after a Sunday night of looting.

A group of more than 100 ran onto Westfield Southcenter Mall property at about 7:45 p.m. May 31 after they had gathered across the street in the parking lot outside of Bowlero, just north of LA Fitness.

“They attempted to gain access to the mall from the north side but were quickly dispersed back to the Bowlero parking lot by officers who gave clear, verbal commands,” according to a Tukwila Police Department post Monday morning on Facebook. “The group continued to grow to approximately 300-plus on foot and in vehicles. They began throwing rocks and projectiles at officers who were standing by on the east side of the mall. The group split up at this point on foot and in vehicles and began looting Bowlero, REI and Firestone.”

Protests have been sparked across the nation after the May 27 death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis who died after a white officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes as Floyd said “I can’t breathe.” The officer has since been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

But the hundreds who gathered near the Southcenter Mall were there to damage and loot businesses, according to Tukwila Police.

“We respect everyone’s right to assemble, to freedom of speech and their right to protest,” according to a Tukwila Police statement. “Emotions and tensions are understandably high. Many people are hurting right now and want their voices to be heard. Their voices deserve and need to be heard, their message is very important and must be heard by all.

“Seeking to drown out those important voices, to detract from their message through looting and other distractions is, and should be, unacceptable to us all. To be very clear, what happened in Tukwila last night was not a protest. It was coordinated looting. It can not be allowed to overshadow the important message and conversations that peaceful protesters nationwide have begun over the past week.”

During the course of the looting, multiple reports of gunshots and subjects discharging firearms were called in to 911 as well as heard by officers, according to police. Looters also moved north to the vicinity of South 144th Street and Tukwila International Boulevard on the northwest side of town and broke in to several businesses there. Multiple teams of officers were required to clear looted businesses to ensure there was no one inside. It took several hours for officers to disperse the looters in vehicles and on foot to restore order.

Due to information received throughout the weekend regarding potential looting activity, the Southcenter Mall and several neighboring businesses, including Target, that were open made the decision to close early, approximately 11 a.m., according to police. Extra officers were brought in to assist with patrolling and monitoring the Southcenter District throughout the day in light of the threat of looting activity.

No officers were injured. One individual reported an injury to their finger.

Other businesses that were looted and or damaged included Target, Best Buy, Total Wine and Red Robin.

The city issued a curfew from 9 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday in an effort to control the looting. Multiple streets were closed near the mall.

The Port of Seattle Police, the Washington State Patrol, King County Sheriff’s Office, and the police departments from Renton, Federal Way, Auburn, Kent and Normandy Park assisted Tukwila Police.

“We thank them and our dispatchers at ValleyCOM for helping us to protect the city and businesses,” Tukwila Police said.

Residents responded on Monday morning to help clean up the businesses.

“We are proud to serve the Tukwila community and we are proud of the outpouring of love that the public has shown for Tukwila since last night,” police said. “We are stronger together and our community speaks volumes to that having worked through the night to organize clean-up efforts for the damage caused by looters last night. …

“Members from all walks of life and backgrounds are out side by side assisting businesses that were looted and damaged last night. Our businesses and their hundreds of employees have been greatly impacted over the past few months and we are thankful to everyone who has been supporting them during these difficult times.Thank you to everyone who rapidly came together together to clean up the damage done last night.”

King County declares Proclamation of Emergency

To assist in responding to the violence and theft associated with some of the local protests, King County Executive Dow Constantine issued a King County Proclamation of Emergency on Sunday night.

The proclamation allows King County departments flexibility with contracting needs and obligations necessary to make emergency repairs and address other impacts associated with the civil emergency, according to a county news release. Most importantly for the residents and businesses served by the county, the proclamation expedites the process of obtaining resources, if needed.

The King County Office of Emergency Management activated the King County Emergency Operations Center on May 30 for a significant civil emergency caused by violence and theft during the time of public demonstrations in various communities of King County, including the cities of Seattle, Bellevue, Renton, and Tukwila.

The peaceful demonstrations by many have been accompanied by property damage and destruction by others; they have created hazardous conditions for persons assembled for peaceful protests; pose a risk to public property and facilities; and, further threaten public safety, property destruction, injury, and safe travel.

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Officers keep watch on a large group that assembled Sunday night, May 31, near the LA Fitness in Tukwila. The group later began looting businesses. COURTESY PHOTO, Tukwila Police

Officers keep watch on a large group that assembled Sunday night, May 31, near the LA Fitness in Tukwila. The group later began looting businesses. COURTESY PHOTO, Tukwila Police

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