Elderly man stabbed over cell phone

A 74-year-old Renton man stabbed multiple times Thursday evening in downtown Renton is recovering from his wounds, while Renton police investigate the events leading to the attack – starting with the robbery of a cell phone.


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A 74-year-old Renton man stabbed multiple times Thursday evening in downtown Renton is recovering from his wounds, while Renton police investigate the events leading to the attack – starting with the robbery of a cell phone.

The assault occurred just after 6 p.m. at the Renton Transit Center on Burnett Avenue South. Several Renton police cars responded almost immediately; two suspects were apprehended.

The incident did not involve any Metro Transit bus passengers nor was it associated with any event or business near the transit center.

Earlier in the day, a Renton youth at the Jack in the Box restaurant on Rainier Avenue in Renton was robbed of his cell phone by several other youths, according to Renton police. He called his father and grandfather, who joined him in searching for the suspects.

They found them at the transit center.

“That is just where they happened to catch up to one another,” said Renton Police Commander David Leibman.

Before this confrontation, the suspects, somewhere between five and 10 youths, robbed a Seattle youth of his iPod on South Second Street, according to Leibman.

The assault again raised the concern about safety of those who work, shop or live downtown, especially at the transit center. Others take the incident in stride and see no reason to change their routines.

City officials have worked hard to try to dispel the perception that downtown and the transit center are unsafe. In fact, according to Mayor

Denis Law, the crime rate is “really pretty low” in the area.

Law said that “it’s hard to justify” the police resources the city invests in downtown based on statistics alone. But, what’s important, he said, is perception.

“We are working really hard to overcome that perception,” Law said.

The transit center has always been part of a larger vision of attracting people to live downtown, then take the bus to their jobs if they work elsewhere. Significant investments have been made in those housing options and downtown is continuing to attract new businesses, he said.

Law was at the scene of the incident Thursday night. Public safety was one of the hallmarks of his mayoral campaign last year.

The city has taken measures to improve security at the transit center.

The incident Thursday night was caught on videotape, which Renton detectives are reviewing as part of their investigation. The city plans to enhance those cameras to help in prosecutions, Law said.

Earlier this year, the city stationed security guards at the transit center. The city Police Department has a substation in the city parking garage on Burnett Avenue and plans to move its patrol services division to space on the Logan Avenue side of the garage. The patrol services division includes the traffic unit and animal control.

Police officers will monitor the surveillance cameras from either office. The transit center is clearly posted as under the surveillance of security cameras.

Security also is provided by the transit police, part of the King County Sheriff’s Office, but Law said he would like to see a greater county police presence at the transit center. He also wants the county to make a greater effort to keep the transit clear of garbage and debris.

It has been a battle, he said, to make both happen.

What is unfortunate about incidents such as the one on Thursday night is that they are “nearly impossible to prevent,” Law said.

Rather than call police, he said, the family of the victim of the cell-phone robbery took matters into their own hands. “Then you have an altercation,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate.”

Law said that Renton police “did a great job” in responding to the incident. “I can assure you we had a ton of cars there within a minute or two,” he said.

The incident involved two groups, the youths somehow involved in the theft of the cell-phone robbery and the family of the robbery’s victim. During the day, three crimes were committed – robbery, strong-armed robbery and felony assault – that could result in charges.

Besides the 74-year-old grandfather, a second man also was stabled. He was taken to Valley Medical Center by private vehicle for treatment.

According to Leibman, this second victim initially told investigators he was simply a bystander during the attack, but later admitted he was involved in the fight.

The grandfather was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle in critical condition, with life-threatening injuries. On Monday, a hospital spokeswoman reported he was in satisfactory condition and was no longer in the intensive-care unit.

Police had apprehended two individuals Thursday night and a third person also apparently was involved in the assault. One of those arrested was a juvenile, who was taken to the juvenile center in Seattle.

According to Leibman, the youth who took the cell phone was being treated as a witness. Leibman said this youth apparently wasn’t involved in the stabbing and was cooperating last week with police to help track down the third suspect. Whether he would be charged was unclear.

The cell phone wasn’t recovered.

According to Police Chief Kevin Milosevich, it is believed that more than one person was armed with a knife at the time of the assault. It is also likely, according to police, that the 74-year-old also was armed with a knife at one point.

Travis Cutler of Maple Valley, who moved from California about a month and a half ago, witnessed the aftermath of the assault from the fifth floor of the city parking garage at the transit center. His bus arrived just as two police officers were wrestling a suspect to the ground.

He took photographs of police and the emergency care given to the victim with his digital camera.

Cutler rides a Metro bus to and from his job. “I work downtown in Seattle and I don’t feel this incident will deter me from riding the bus,” he said.

The day after the assault, it was business as usual at the transit center. Metro Transit officials were there as usual, keeping an eye on buses and ready to help with any routine maintenance issues. A friendly bus driver was chatting with two young riders, asking them about their day.

Rhonda Woods, who lives in the Highlands, has ridden the bus to work in downtown Seattle for about four years. She was at the transit center just a short time before the stabbing.

She sees the security officers at the transit center, which makes her feel safe, she said.

“I feel pretty comfortable,” she said.

Dean A. Radford can be reached at 425-255-3484, ext. 5050, or at dean.radford@rentonreporter.com.