Monday’s rape sparks questions and fuels homelessness debate

Christopher Teel was charged Wednesday with first-degree rape and unlawful imprisonment with sexual motivation, two days after he is accused of attacking a woman in the temporary restroom of a Ballard car dealership. Photographs of Teel appeared in The Seattle Times in November, accompanying a story about the Ballard Nickelsville homeless camp. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

In a neighborhood that’s already grappling with homelessness, the news that a woman was raped in a car dealership bathroom in Ballard has fueled an already-heated debate. It also raises questions about the suspect’s bench warrant and Seattle Police’s delay in talking about the case.

Here are several stories covering the fallout:

  • Suspect Christopher Teel had an outstanding bench warrant for failing to appear in court after he was arrested for squatting in a Magnolia house. So why wasn’t he picked up earlier? Q13 reports the city has 11,314 bench warrants active in Seattle, and SPD said officers can’t actively pursue everyone with a warrant.
  • When asked why Seattle Police didn’t release information about the rape until the media discovered the court documents on Wednesday, spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb told KIRO TV he decided not to tell the public out of respect to the victim. “The answer is the victim gets this much added time to deal with the trauma they went through,” he told KIRO, adding that there was no public threat because the suspect was in custody. Our editorial comment: The victim’s privacy will be preserved regardless (rape victims’ names are never released), and it’s important the neighborhood knows about the incident precisely for public safety. This was an attack from a stranger, not someone she knew, and it happened in an area that’s seen a surge in crime over the last several months.
  • KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson, an outspoken critic of the city’s response to homelessness, interviewed the woman who fought off a sex offender in the Golden Gardens bathroom last year. “What do we have to do, fight these guys off one by one, put them in prison one by one, is that our responsibility to shoulder now, or is the city going to take care of us?” Kelly Heron said. “That’s what we pay for, right? …. Is it too much to ask for just a baseline of safety to live in the city to which you pay taxes?”
  • David Moody lives right across the alley from the Whittier Heights Village for Women, which is slated to open around the end of the month on 15th Ave. NW. He told KING 5 (video) that he’s worried the new homeless encampment will contribute to drug use and crime in the neighborhood. A LIHI volunteer disagrees. “I think we’d find out that there’s just as much crime with any other group,” he told KING 5.

Teel is being held in the King County Jail in lieu of a $1 million bail.

Syttende Mai to take over Ballard Thursday

It hasn’t been the happiest of days in Ballard recently, and that’s all the more reason to attend Thursday evening’s Syttende Mai — 17th of May — celebrations and parade through Ballard. The parade is the largest of its kind outside Norway, and it draws thousands of festive people across the neighborhood and beyond.

Plus, pleasant weather is in the forecast.

Let’s start with the big event, which caps a day of activities celebrating Norway’s Constitution Day. The parade will feature marching bands, drill teams, classic cars, vikings, funky floats and Scandinavian flair. It begins at 6 p.m. at the corner of NW 62nd and 24th Ave. NW. It follows 24th down to Market, heads to Bergen Place Park and turns onto Ballard Ave.

Here’s the map:

For those neighborhood newbies out there, parking is always a struggle, especially if you’re not setting up early along the route, like many families do. So plan your approach carefully. And traffic will be a nightmare if you’re trying to navigate central Ballard — there’s no way you can cross the parade route during the event.

The celebrations get underway earlier in the day. The brand new Nordic Museum will have special events for the kids from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. At noon the museum will host a (sold out) luncheon with the parade’s grand marshal, Kåre Aas, Norwegian Ambassador to the US.

From noon to 5 p.m., the Sons of Norway Leif Erikson Hall is having an open house with live music. The Lodge’s Nordic Cafe will be selling its famous smørbrød, lefse and krumkake.

Over at Bergen Place, the entertainment begins at 2 p.m. and runs until 5:45 p.m. Here’s the performance schedule.

After the parade, the annual Syttende Gay event will kick into gear at 7 p.m at the Cedar Room. The special guest this year is Cash Court from Olympia, who was featured on the Norwegian Reality Show, Alt for Norg. There’s a suggested donation of $7.

One more thing: The folks behind the Skål Beer Hall, which is coming to Ballard Ave., will have a tent at the corner Ballard Ave NW and 22nd Ave NW during the parade. They’ll have a preview of their menu, including signature lamb and pork sausages.

We’ll be attending the parade and will post photos here on My Ballard. Have fun!

Woman raped in car dealership bathroom

Updated: A woman was raped inside the bathroom at Carter Volkswagen on Leary Way on Monday morning, according to court documents.

The 40-year-old woman had taken her car in for service just after 7 a.m. After getting some coffee, she went to the restroom, which is in a temporary area due to ongoing construction.

After following her into the women’s bathroom, a homeless man forced open the stall door despite the woman’s best efforts to hold it closed, according to the documents.

After hearing the commotion, employees ran to the bathroom, but the door was locked. According to the probable cause documents, the suspect admitted to locking the door after he walked in.

“They got the door open and a few employees came to her aid,” said Jennifer Moran, executive manager at Carter Volkswagen. “They detained him until police arrived.” A customer also helped detain the man.

The suspect was identified by KOMO News and Q13 as Christopher Edward Teel. Court documents say he admitted to the rape and was “resisting, aggressive and non-compliant” with officers. His address listed in the police report is “99999 Homeless St. Seattle.”

Teel is shown on King County Jail records as being booked for charges of rape, assault and unlawful imprisonment. He also shows a prior arrest for trespassing in a home in Magnolia.

A November story in the Seattle Times shows photos of a “Chris Teel” as a resident of Ballard Nickelsville. The man is shown getting ready for the move to the Northlake Nickelsville camp.

The woman was taken to Ballard Swedish Hospital.

“We’re shaken,” Moran told My Ballard, who says her thoughts are with the victim. “The effects on all the employees are no where near what this customer was assaulted is experiencing. There’s a widespread concern about her.”

Moran said she’s also concerned about the rising homelessness and crime in the neighborhood.

“We’re a company that’s been around since the 1960s, and nothing like this has happened,” she said. “We used to not see tents on the sidewalks, or part of the sidewalk, even a couple years ago. And now we do. We see an increased number of vehicles that people are living in. The challenge that creates — not all of them are bad and criminal, but some of them are. And we’re trying to navigate through that as employees and a business here in Ballard.”

It looks like the first tip about Monday morning’s rape — which occurred several hours before the head tax vote — appeared on the Safe Seattle Facebook page Tuesday evening. The first media reports appeared this morning.

Seattle Police has yet to post details about the crime online, as it typically does for newsworthy events. We have reached out to SPD, which has yet to respond.

“Ballard is such a great community,” Moran said. “I sure hope that something gets figured out and something changes, because what’s going on isn’t working and getting worse and it’s affecting us greatly.”

Monday’s rape is the latest in a series of crimes in the Leary Way area of Ballard. Last month a man was shot and killed just two blocks away from Carter Volkswagen. A week before that, a man was found murdered in a camper on 15th Ave. near the bridge. In November on Leary Way, a man was set on fire and critically injured.

Last year a sex offender was arrested for attempting to rape a woman in the Golden Garden’s restroom. He was sentenced in March.

(File photo from Google Maps)

City council passes scaled-down head tax

One of Seattle’s most controversial proposals in years passed unanimously in city council today — but after some significant revisions.

The council voted 9-0 to require large Seattle businesses to pay $275 per employee in taxes for housing and homeless services. It sunsets in 2023. That’s down from $500 per employee proposed in the initial head tax plan, which faced a potential veto from Mayor Jenny Durkan.

The head tax will raise $45-49 million a year, down from the $75 million a year in the earlier proposal that prompted a sharp response from Amazon and a racous community meeting.

Here’s more on the story from KOMO News and the Seattle Times.

Pedestrian signal, crosswalk and bus-only lane coming to 15th Ave. NW

Big changes are coming to 15th Ave. NW between Market St. and the Ballard Bridge.

That busy stretch carries an estimated 50,000 vehicles and 15,000 bus passengers every day, SDOT says. For nearly half a mile — between Market and Leary — there are no crosswalks, which often results in some pedestrians making a mad dash across 15th.

Over the next several weeks, SDOT is installing a crosswalk at NW 53rd St. — that’s just north of the Starbucks’ drive-in — with a center island, pedestrian signal and curb ramps. It will look something like this (SDOT rendering):

The pedestrian island replaces the center turn lane, which will also be replaced with a bus-only lane from 53rd down to 51st, where the center lane disappears leading up to the Ballard Bridge. This bus lane is designed “to make service more reliable and faster” when traffic backs up, SDOT says.

However, removing that turn lane means you’ll no longer be able to make left turns on 15th at 52nd or 53rd streets. “Some people and service providers will change their routes to get home or access businesses,” SDOT says. “However, the change will make the intersections safer.”

All this work will result in lane closures for the next 6-8 weeks, adjusted to minimize impact on the commute. Here are the details from SDOT:

  • Two lanes of traffic will remain open in each direction for the duration of the project.
  • Outer southbound and northbound lane closures of 15th Ave NW will occur intermittently.
  • 15th Ave NW southbound will be open to three lanes 6-10 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
  • 15th Ave NW northbound will be open to three lanes 3-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, and noon to 4PM on Saturday and Sunday.
  • No parking and local access only on NW 53rd St between 17th Ave NW and 14th Ave NW.

This stretch of 15th Ave. NW is becoming home to several apartment complexes, including a new development planned for 51st and 15th.

Scenes from Ballard High’s sizzling jazz performance at Lincoln Center

Updated: The Ballard High School jazz band won several section and individual awards including the outstanding trombone section, outstanding trumpet section and Kate Webster (above) won for outstanding reed player. Ballard did not place in the top three bands overall (Dillard Center for the Arts took the crown), but a very strong showing nonetheless.

Roosevelt High School, the other Seattle school invited to the prestigious competition, won an honorable mention for the band overall.

Earlier: The Ballard High School jazz band played a remarkable set this morning at the Essentially Ellington competition at Lincoln Center in NYC.

“It was so much fun, we loved it, so much energy,” said Katie Webster, who plays alto sax (above).

Led by Michael James, Ballard is competing against 14 other high schools in the prestigious national competition. The top three bands will be announced at 1 p.m. our time (live stream), and the winner will be announced later today (we’ll update this post).

Here are a few photos from the set, taken from the live stream (the performance is not yet available online for replay):

Ballard High School goes into lockdown

Updated: Just after 2 this afternoon, Ballard High School went into lockdown. Police said a suspected residential burglar had been chased in the direction of campus, and the school went into lockdown as a precaution. About an hour later, the lockdown was lifted.

In a letter to parents, Principal Kevin Wyncoop said video cameras showed the suspect “did run through our building and was in our school for approximately one minute before immediately exiting.” The SPD investigation into the burglary case is ongoing.

Here were our updates as the story happened:

6:15 p.m. Principal Kevin Wyncoop responded to questions about why the school didn’t notify students what was happening at the time: “We don’t want to make PA announcements during a lockdown, as that would tell the suspect what was happening. Twitter and our website were updated to allow teachers, students and our community to get info.”

3:04 p.m. Seattle Schools: “Ballard High School has transitioned from lock down to shelter in place, with school functions returned to normal. Outer doors will remain locked. Seattle Police Department will continue to monitor.”

3 p.m. Principal Kevin Wynkoop: “Lockdown is over. Switched to Shelter in place. Verified that the suspect left the building.”

2:56 p.m. Our staff member source at the school says the lockdown is over, but they’re still “sheltering in place.” All kids are safe.

2:54 p.m. Seattle Police: “Officers were investigating an attempted burglary at a nearby residence when the suspect was chased off and ran toward the school. Out of an abundance of caution, the school went into lock down while office search the campus.”

Seattle Schools: “Ballard High School is currently in lock-down due to a neighborhood incident. @SeattlePD has responded and are currently onsite. So as not to interfere with police actions, parents/guardians are asked to stand by. We will continue to update.”

2:50 p.m. No word on what incident triggered the lockdown. Some scuttlebutt on a possible robbery nearby. No official word from SPD as of yet.

2:35 p.m. We’re hearing from a staff member on site that the lockdown was triggered by a suspect who may have ran on campus. Heavily-armed police officers on scene.

2:30 p.m. BHS Principal Kevin Wyncoop confirms BHS is in lockdown due to an incident that’s happening nearby in the neighborhood. “This is not an active shooting situation,” he says.

2:25 p.m. Ballard High is in lockdown, according to several students on Twitter as well as a staff member on site.

Ballard High jazz band arrives in NYC for prestigious competition

In February we reported that Ballard High School’s jazz band is one of only 15 schools in the country to make the cut to compete in the Essentially Ellington Festival at Lincoln Center.

The band just arrived in New York (above) for the competition on Friday and Saturday. Each band will perform before a distinguished panel of judges — including Wynton Marsalis — which will be live-streamed online here.

Ballard is scheduled to perform between 10-11:30 a.m. our time on Saturday. Then at 1 p.m. PT, judges will announce the top three bands. Later that night, the winner will be announced.

The BHS jazz band has had a busy year. In March it was one 13 high school bands selected to play at the Next Generation Jazz Festival in Monterey, CA. Then later that month, BHS was one of five Western Washington high school jazz bands selected to perform in Starbucks’ 23rd annual Hot Java Cool Jazz event at the Paramount Theater for a sold-out performance.  

We’ll let you know how the band does in NYC. Go BHS!

(Photo from the Ballard Performing Arts Twitter account).

Ballard New Seasons celebrates grand opening

Ballard’s newest grocery store, New Seasons Market opened its doors today on Ballard Way with speeches, protests and plenty of eager shoppers.

We arrived at lunchtime, and the store was packed with neighbors navigating the aisles and admiring the amenities.

Among all the staples, New Seasons features an expansive meat and seafood counter, wok and ramen bar, burrito bar, in-house made sushi, grab-and-go meal kits and an indoor and outdoor seating area, to name a few. Some local vendors handed out free samples.

“We are excited to open our doors to the Ballard community,” said Kerri Hunsley, Ballard store manager. “We are honored to have partnered with local nonprofits and hired amazing staff from local neighborhoods. We have sourced a variety of products from more than 175 vendors across all departments, and many of them are hyperlocal vendors from the Ballard area. We look forward to being your neighbor and serving the Ballard community for many years to come.”

One of those vendors is extremely local: Fremont Brewing’s production facility is right across the street from New Seasons. Named after a shingle mill constructed in Ballard in 1888, Fremont created “Shingle Town Hazy India Pale Ale” exclusively for New Seasons.

“From the windows of our Ballard production facility, we watched the demolition of the old building and the construction of New Season’s first Seattle store on that site with great anticipation,” said Matt Lincecum, Fremont Brewing Founder and CEO. “We’re excited to welcome New Seasons to the neighborhood with Shingle Town Hazy IPA.”

As shoppers drove into the parking lot, they were greeted by protesters demanding better worker conditions at New Seasons, which is not a union workplace. We talked with Chris Heim, a longtime employee from the Hawthorne store in Portland who drove up to take part in the protest.

“I’ve seen a lot of things deteriorate and degrade, as far the quality of the job,” he said. “I’m trying to get as many people together to show solidarity with Seattle. There’s a worker network that’s coming together to fight back against corporate greed for better wages, better benefits, better staffing. Under-staffing is one of our biggest issues.”

Some protesters also claim that the store has “retaliated against Portland workers who spoke up about working conditions,” a claim that New Seasons refutes. “The National Labor Relations Board investigated two claims of retaliation and dismissed both claims as having no merit,” New Seasons spokesperson Nicole Brooks told Seattle Weekly. In February, New Seasons announced CEO Wendy Collie is stepping down in a “strategic shift” in the organization.

New Seasons opponents, who are supported by UFCW 21, are also protesting against the company’s planned expansion into the Central District.

New Seasons is entering an increasingly competitive grocery store market in Ballard. Ballard Market, Safeway, Fred Meyer, Trader Joe’s and Amazon Fresh are just a few blocks away, and a new PCC will open early next year in the Ballard Blocks II development.

In the days to come, New Seasons has several events planned, including wine and chocolate tastings and store tours with nutritionists.

(Both New Seasons Market and its opponents, New Seasons Stories, are advertisers of My Ballard.)

Councilmember O’Brien shoved out of Nordic Museum after-party

The Seattle Times is reporting that Councilmember Mike O’Brien was physically removed from an outdoor event at the Pacific Fishermen Shipyard on Friday night. The event was an official after-party of the Nordic Museum’s grand opening.

O’Brien said he was asked to leave, and as he looked for his wife, “someone from behind grabbed me by the shoulders and proceeded to shove me toward the gate and out the gate,” he said. “I was physically thrown out of this event because of the policies I advocate for.”

When Times reporter Daniel Beekman asked shipyard General Manager Doug Dixon what happened, he verified O’Brien’s account.

“We have a conflict with Mike O’Brien because of his efforts to put a bicycle path here and do some other issues that hurt the maritime-industrial area,” he said. Dixon said when O’Brien didn’t leave after he was told he was trespassing, “we had to forcibly remove him.”

Councilmember O’Brien is a polarizing figure in Ballard politics. He’s an outspoken supporter of plans to build the missing link of the Burke Gilman trail along the waterfront, which has been the subject of a long-running legal battle between Old Ballard businesses and the Seattle Department of Transportation. Earlier this year, the city hearing examiner ruled in favor of SDOT.

O’Brien took the brunt of criticism at a raucous town hall over homelessness last week, and a letter to O’Brien from neighbors frustrated with homelessness and crime has nearly 2,500 signatures. There’s a “Recall Mike O’Brien” Facebook group, which took this photo of “Visualize Recall” stickers making the rounds in Ballard.

(File photo above from the City of Seattle.)