Two Seattle firefighters accused of beating of a homeless man in Pioneer Square on March 15 will not face felony charges, the King County Prosecutor’s Office announced this morning.
The office issued the following statement:
“We reviewed this case because one of the three suspects had potentially committed a felony assault. We have concluded that there is not sufficient evidence to prove a felony assault. We also do not have a provision under state law that allows us to file a malicious harassment charge regarding an alleged victim being targeted based on being homeless. As a result, we are referring the matter to the Seattle City Attorney’s Office for the possible filing of misdemeanor charges.”
John Schochet, deputy chief of staff for City Attorney Pete Holmes, said they just learned of the decision by the county prosecutor’s office. He said they have not received the cases and will not make a filing decision until they’ve reviewed the files.
The two firefighters were off-duty and accompanied by a woman when they became involved in a tussle at the Seattle Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Occidental Park.
According to Seattle police, the woman began yelling at the homeless man, who was sleeping on the memorial, and then kicked him. One of the firefighters hit the homeless man with a stick and the other firefighter joined in, police said. Police said it appeared that the firefighters and the woman were intoxicated.
The firefighters were identified as Scott Bullene and Robert Howell. The woman was identified as Mia Jarvinen, the 37-year-old girlfriend of Bullene.
In an apparent attempt to ward off his attackers, the homeless man got up and stabbed Bullene. Howell and Jarvinen were arrested. Jarvinen was booked for investigation of fourth-degree assault and later released.
Bullene, 45, was hospitalized at Harborview Medical Center for treatment of a non-life-threatening wound, fire department Lt. Sue Stangl said last month.
Bullene works at Station 5 on the Seattle waterfront and joined the department in 1999, Stangl said. Howell, 46, joined the Fire Department in 1997. Stangl said his last shift was on Jan. 9. He has been on disability since then, but the details of the disability were not released.
The homeless man refused treatment.
Both firefighters are on administrative leave while the case is investigated, according to the fire department.
Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, said lack of cooperation from the alleged victim also played into the decision not to file felony charges against the firefighters.
“The homeless man, who was allegedly struck by Bullene, did not want to go forward with prosecution,” Goodhew said.
Shortly after the incident, Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Munca described Jarvinen as the primary assailant in the attack.
“This was a vicious, unprovoked attack on a defenseless person,” Munca said. “The allegation is she kicked away a man’s food and then kicked him multiple times while he was lying on the ground.”
According to her LinkedIn profile, Jarvinen is a senior finance manager at Amazon.com.
In addition, Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean apologized to the public for the two firefighters’ alleged involvement in the incident. Dean said firefighters are supposed to protect the public, “not put them in harm’s way.”