Bellevue police announce 23 arrests for recent looting: 'We are just getting started'
Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett announced Tuesday that detectives have started making arrests for "well-organized" crimes committed alongside peaceful protests for racial justice.
"We’ve had, since Mr. Floyd’s death, numerous protests in Bellevue," Chief Steve Mylett said on Tuesday. "But the stuff that happened under the guise of the protest -- these individuals cloaking themselves -- is disgusting."
“People thought they got away with it. I remember seeing people laughing, shouting expletives at us … well, we’re starting to hold people accountable," he said.
"Folks, we are just getting started."
The arrests stem from looting that occurred at Bellevue Square on May 31.
- A total of 23 arrests and charges have been made so far. Detectives are looking at 100 other suspects.
- There are more open investigations. Chief Mylett said it could take a few years to complete them all.
- Detectives used hundreds of video and photos submitted by the public to help with the investigation and to identify suspects.
- Chief Mylett said detectives believe that organizers of the looting have gang affiliations. Detectives also suspect that organizers are connected to similar incidents in other cities.
As crowds gathered in Bellevue in May, to protest the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, some people rushed into Bellevue Square and looted the mall. Peaceful protests continued nearby where Chief Mylett joined and spoke with protesters.
"Widespread violence that we witnessed in Bellevue … has absolutely no connection to peaceful protests following the death of George Floyd," Chief Mylett stressed on Tuesday.
Bellevue detectives began observing chatter on social media in the lead up to the protests in May. The online communication added up to an organized effort to loot stores in Bellevue while other protests were planned.
About 1,000-2,000 people showed up to take part, according to Bellevue police. Most were from the Seattle area, but the chief noted that at least one person traveled to Bellevue from Yakima.
"There were different levels," he said. "You had people who were organizing this, and you had opportunists who came into Bellevue and took advantage of the situation. There was a lot of people."
On Tuesday, the chief pointed to the arrest of a 23-year-old Renton man, who they were able to identify from a photo a passerby took of him in his car. His friend allegedly burglarized a nearby jewelry shop. That man was arrested and booked for burglary, drugs, stolen property, and weapons violations.
Detectives found $19,000 worth in clothing, tobacco, and alcohol at the man's home, allegedly stolen from Bellevue Square. Detectives also recovered an AK-47 with a silencer (located in a baby's crib), a handgun, ammo, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and material consistent with the sale of narcotics. A few items of evidence were displayed behind the chief at the press conference.
While Bellevue police have arrested 23 people, according to the King County Prosecutor's Office, the Renton man is among two that BPD has submitted for felony charges.