Late-night radio talk-show host Mike Webb says he will seek criminal charges against a Seattle police officer who allegedly assaulted him early Sunday morning, May 16, as Webb stood in line for food at Dick's Drive-In on Capitol Hill. Webb, 48, is host of Seattle's most unabashedly left-leaning talk show on KIRO–AM (710), weeknights from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. He says he will seek the officer's dismissal, monetary damages, and an apology from the city. Seattle Police spokesperson Sean Whitcomb confirms the department received Webb's complaint, which has been forwarded to the department's quasi-independent Office of Professional Accountability. "It will be investigated fully," Whitcomb says.
Around 12:45 a.m. Sunday, Webb says, he went to the restaurant on Broadway to buy a Dick's Deluxe burger (two meat patties, lettuce, special tartar sauce, and cheese). He's a regular at the drive-in, where he says he spends more money than he does on his clothes. "I walked up to the shortest line, the one in the middle, near the food stand. There was a Seattle police officer nearby. I asked, 'Are you on line?' He said, 'I'm in line, and you better get away, you're way too close.' I said, 'I just wanted to know if you were in line—sometimes you guys are here to do crowd control, so I wasn't sure.' No malice, not argumentative—just telling him why I asked."
When Webb moved in line behind the officer, he says the man told him, "You're still too close."
"And before I could say anything, he said, 'In fact, you are trespassing. Get off this property.' I said, 'Are you kidding me?' Then he grabbed me and pushed me in the chest. I stopped and said, 'That was a mistake. This is wrong. Do not touch me again.' Then he grabbed me by the shoulders and pushed me out into the street. He did it violently, no question about it.
"My shoulder still hurts," Webb says. "I'm wondering if he did possibly cause some minor harm. It was a very abrupt and strong push both times.
"I don't think he knew who I was. I think it's pretty simple—he acted like a rookie, rogue cop."
Webb says he took out his cell phone and called 911 and was soon trapped in a classic bureaucratic phone loop. "I told 911 I was assaulted by a police officer and asked for immediate assistance. The person on the phone said, 'This is an internal matter, so let me give you a phone number.' I said, 'I don't know if I have time to take a phone number. I've been assaulted and I don't know if he will continue; the officer is still here, in front of me.' But still this guy on the phone is very disinterested. 'Call internal affairs. Here's their number.' When I called that number, the person answering said I needed to call 911. I said, 'I just can't believe this—this is circular. I started by calling 911. I'm in fear for my safety right now.
"They gave me another number to call—meanwhile this cop is looking at me like he wants to kick my ass. His buddy came over and said, 'What's the problem?' I explained, and the officer smiled at the other cop, and the one who assaulted me said, 'If you make any more phone calls, we can make this very difficult for you. I mean, very difficult.'
When Webb called the third number he had been given and identified himself as being from KIRO radio, he says, "The cop moved away pretty fast."
Webb's attorney, lawyer Bradley R. Marshall, said he will seek to have criminal charges filed against the officer. "It sounds to me like there are multiple assaults there," says Marshall, who was clearly relishing the case. "Here's a police officer who—out of a million guys to pick on—he picks on a radio talk-show host. How often does that happen to the small guys—your average Joe who doesn't have a radio talk show and gets put into this telephone maze, never to be heard from again?" Marshall says.
No average Joe, Webb took to the airwaves of 50,000-watt KIRO–AM Monday night and reported that Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske had declined his offer to appear on the show and was "hiding behind his desk."
"This is so unacceptable to me," Webb says off the air. "I have this current of fear running through me now. I honestly wonder if they won't show up in the middle of the night and do something. I really wonder. I don't drink. I was in complete control of my faculties and behaving appropriately—even respectful at first—to this officer.
"It honestly scared me. I asked an officer, one of many I was referred to through the night, 'What if this had been an assault by a citizen against another citizen? Would you have dispatched a patrol car?' He said, 'Absolutely.' So I was incensed, of course, and asked, 'Why, then, didn't you do it when an officer assaulted a citizen?'