Police response time to Wing Luke Museum 911 calls raises questions about priorities
The Wing Luke Museum in Seattle’s Chinatown International District remains closed Monday, following an act of vandalism last week.
The museum’s staff are still assessing the damage and trying to make sense of racist vandalism that occurred on Thursday evening, when a man with a sledgehammer smashed windows and said hateful things about Chinese people.
Members of the Asian and Pacific Islander community are questioning why it took so long — roughly 45 minutes — for Seattle police to respond to 911 calls about the attack. And they are calling out a broader pattern of alleged neglect from the city for issues facing the Asian American community.
Stan Shikuma was at the Wing Luke when the attack occurred.
"All of us were gathered in the theater," he explained. "Initially, we thought it was construction next door or stairs. And then it kept getting louder. And then we started hearing breaking glass."
Shikuma is co-president of the Seattle Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League.
He says that when someone looked out the back window, they saw a person swinging a sledgehammer. When asked why he was attacking the museum, the assailant said that "the Chinese have ruined my life."
At least five people called 911, according to Shikuma. Eventually, he says, they were told to stop calling.
Multiple reports say that the Seattle Police Department took up to 45 minutes to arrive at the scene.
The Seattle Police Department has said that staffing issues played a role here in how they responded, as well as the incident being property vandalism, with no one injured by the attack.
Shikuma says he understands why property damage wouldn't be a top priority, but he also notes that a Beyonce concert happening at Lumen Field at the time could have been a major factor.
"So it's kind of like, what are your priorities directing traffic for Beyonce? Or is it protecting the Chinatown International District? I think they made a choice."
Shikuma says it was Wing Luke staff and community members that stopped the vandalism, and that deescalated the situation. It was also community members that came out to clean up afterwards. That, says Shikuma, leads to a sense that they're on their own.
"The CID and Asian American community in general is feeling under attack," Shikuma said. He points to recent robberies targeting elderly Asian American community members, as well as callous comments by SPD officers about the death of a South Asian community member, as signs of neglect from the city.
"It just seems like our communities don't count as much as other other communities do."
Seattle Deputy Mayor Greg Wong says that the city condemns the attack on the Wing Luke Museum, and emphasizes that it is a hate crime. He also notes that the city is investigating the response time, and will determine if it should have been handled differently.
"We know the Wing Luke Museum and Chinatown International District, they are cherished institutions in our city," Wong said. "And we want to make sure that we are making everybody who lives there, who works there, and who visits there, to feel safe."
Soundside has asked the Seattle Police Department if staffing was short due to Thursday's Beyonce concert. The department said it did not have detailed staffing numbers available on short notice, but asked us to follow the Public Records Act process for more information.
The Wing Luke Museum is also welcoming donations to help with window repairs. Anyone interested can visit the museum's donation page. Please designate "General Museum Support" or the "Chinese American Legacy Artwork Project" in the comment section.