SEATTLE – A teenage girl beaten in a Seattle bus tunnel as three security guards who were following company orders looked on said Friday that she sought help from the guards and police but was rebuffed.
Speaking at a news conference, 15-year-old Aiesha Steward-Baker said she asked Seattle police for help several times at a shopping center and Macy's in the hour before the Jan. 28 attack.
In court papers filed earlier this week against another teenager accused in the attack and three young men accused of stealing the victim's purse, phone and iPod, the girl told King County sheriff's detective that the group followed her from the department store into the bus tunnel at Westlake Station, and she deliberately stood next to the three guards.
Surveillance video of the beating first aired by Seattle's KING-TV this week has prompted a re-examination of tunnel security, with King County Metro reviewing its policy of having contract security guards only observe and report crimes, and Seattle police on Friday announcing an internal review of the officers' actions to determine whether enough was done.
Seattle police have said they did everything they could to separate the girl from another group, but did not witness unlawful behavior before the attack. Sgt. Sean Whitcomb earlier characterized the situation between the girl and the other group of young people as "a roving, verbal dispute."
James Bible, a lawyer for the victim, said Friday there is a "substantial likelihood" a lawsuit will be filed.
"If this young lady had had blond hair and blue eyes and told police 'These black kids are following me,' the response would have been different," Bible said.
"What would have happened if there wasn't a video? Would we be here now?" he asked.
The girl's mother also attended the news conference at a Seattle church.
In a news release, Seattle police said, "During the hour prior to the attack, it is known that Seattle Police foot-beat officers had at least two contacts with both parties. During these two interactions, it is agreed that the officers separated the involved individuals and instructed the 15-year-old girl to leave the area.
"The question that remains is whether or not enough was done. Was there an opportunity for action that would have changed the outcome?"
Police said the review will also look at the larger issue of how Seattle police and the King County sheriff's office can jointly address safety for those using public transportation in Seattle.
They added that Interim Police Chief John Diaz has contacted King County Sheriff Sue Rahr, who commands the King County Metro Transit Police.
On Thursday, King County Executive Dow Constantine directed that at least one armed, uniformed sheriff's deputy be posted at each of five bus tunnel stations during operating hours as an interim step during a review of the contract with the company that provides security guards.
A 15-year-old girl accused of beating and robbing the other girl pleaded not guilty Thursday in Juvenile Court.
Three young men arrested after the tunnel fight are facing robbery charges as adults. They are set to be arraigned Feb. 24.
The Seattle Times reports that friends and relatives of the four arrested have said the situation has been blown out of proportion. They said the two girls have fought each other often over the past two years, and that the girl beaten this time has usually won.
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