Bulletin: West Seattle graffiti-vandalism suspect Ryan Cox arrested

December 17, 2009 at 10:16 am | In Crime, West Seattle news | 50 Comments

(scroll down for latest information, added to the original report)

ORIGINAL 10:16 AM REPORT: Just announced by Seattle Police at SPDBlotter:

Ryan Cox was arrested this morning by Southwest Precinct detectives near the intersection of 44th Avenue SW and SW Alaska Street. Cox was taken into custody without incident at around 8:30 a.m. He will be booked into King County Jail. The Seattle Police Department appreciates all of the public assistance in this matter.

The arrest comes less than 24 hours after police released photos of Cox, including three like the one above, in which they say he was caught in the act of marking/painting the same three-word anti-gay slur that reappeared on businesses and homes around West Seattle repeatedly over the past three months (here’s the report we published Sept. 9), after incidences in the spring that led to his previous arrest. 10:44 AM UPDATE: We just checked with Southwest Precinct Lt. Steve Paulsen, with whom we have talked about the case multiple times in recent months (including yesterday, after we got three more reports, at which time he told us about the arrest warrant). Regarding more details on this morning’s arrest, he says Detective Nick Bauer spotted Cox at California and Erskine on the south end of The Junction, called for backup, and “several patrol units assisted in the arrest” two blocks north. 11:48 AM UPDATE: The King County Jail Register shows Cox was booked about an hour ago, and the charges are listed as property destruction and “dangerous weapon” – we’re checking on more information regarding that last one. 11:57 AM: Lt. Paulsen explains it: He says Cox was found carrying a “fixed-blade knife.” He’s scheduled to answer the charges in a hearing tomorrow; bail currently totals $1,330.

50 Comments

  1. “…it’s a beautiful morning…”

    Teen caught with stolen coins at QFC, totem pole thief caught and now this guy…I could get used to seeing this kinda news.

    Comment by Bruce W — 10:28 am December 17, 2009 #

  2. He has spent time in jail before, and it doesn’t appear to have changed his behavior. I hope he can get the mental health services he apparently needs.

    Comment by DLP — 10:32 am December 17, 2009 #

  3. Throw away the key.

    Comment by on board — 10:34 am December 17, 2009 #

  4. i hope he gets the help he needs.

    Comment by k — 10:40 am December 17, 2009 #

  5. How about 100 hours of community service cleaning up graffiti! That’s what i think he needs.

    Comment by b-squared — 10:41 am December 17, 2009 #

  6. I hope our system does not fail the citizens….and that this man gets the help he needs and is held as necessary to keep us safe from him and his hateful graffiti and keep himself safe from harm.

    Comment by LAP — 10:46 am December 17, 2009 #

  7. Big Blogger is Watching…..

    Comment by rnl — 10:51 am December 17, 2009 #

  8. This is good news, but only if he is detained and gets the help he clearly needs. Whether he serves time and is released or is released on his own (or to his family’s custody), he will continue to harm society and himself UNLESS he gets meaningful help (e.g. court-ordered counseling and placement in a supervised group home). Locking him up and “throwing away the key” is completely unrealistic, both financially and socially… not to mention mean-spirited.

    Comment by Meghan — 10:55 am December 17, 2009 #

  9. I’m working right now to try to find out more about what would happen if again he (or anyone else in a municipal criminal case) is found incompetent to stand trial – what the system provides and doesn’t for mentally ill offenders – TR

    Comment by WSB — 11:03 am December 17, 2009 #

  10. In case someone is keeping a list. Within the past few days the graffitti reappeared painted on the beige garage on the California side of the intersection of California and Holly (I think it’s Holly). It’s across from the McDonalds. I just came back from Thriftway, and it is still there. This was a garage door that has been targeted before and was painted over several times by the owner in the past year or so. Sadly, needs painting again. This person is obviously mentally ill, and sadly he will probably once again be found incompetent and released in the streets. But maybe this time he’ll get some help. Thanks for researching this WSB/Tracy.

    Comment by Iggy — 11:29 am December 17, 2009 #

  11. I’d be interested to know what it is exactly that people think makes this guy such a unique piece of work. Is it the vandalism? The content of his vandalism? His mental health problems? Don’t blame the content of his messages on his mental health problems – I’ve heard plenty of perfectly sane people say similarly scandalous things.

    Comment by Jim — 11:44 am December 17, 2009 #

  12. Jim, The First Amendment gives me, and you, the right to say pretty much what we want within limits. Its legal to hate. I just can’t do it on other peoples property without permission. That was Ryan’s problem.

    Comment by mark — 11:58 am December 17, 2009 #

  13. This guy is probably a (three letter work for homosexual) himself since the ones who are the most vocally against someone or something is usually guilty of the same thing.

    Comment by Andrew — 12:06 pm December 17, 2009 #

  14. Jim, I think many of us are not normally as bothered by typical graffiti or tagging (not that it is okay by any stretch) …this case is just different. What he has written contains hate speech and implied sexual violence against children. And he has persistently and repeatedly written this message on private property all around areas where kids congregate. It is hard to explain what the slur is without saying it. It is very disturbing, and beyond scandalous. I doubt a sane person would ever utter these words, let along tag them ALL OVER our neighborhood, including the homes of our gay neighbors. I think that many people sense his behavior escalating, and are afraid he will act. He was carrying a knife. Mental illness + hate + weapons = BAD NEWS.

    Comment by LP — 12:18 pm December 17, 2009 #

  15. I thought I recognized him last night around 5:50p in front of Wellsfargo at the 55 bus stop arguing with another person. I recognized him from the picture that was posted – thanks WSB! I sent a text to crime stoppers using the tip code that was referenced but it took almost a half hour for them (texting back and forth) to understand what I was reporting. lesson learned – I should have called the police instead.

    Comment by eileen — 12:22 pm December 17, 2009 #

  16. And from the reporting perspective – Seldom has there been a case I’ve covered, in any media, where I’d start almost every day with more reports from people about the same particular crime happening again and again, in so many places. When I contacted Lt. Paulsen yesterday morning after 3 more reports, my question was “as more and more reports come in, what more can we tell people about what’s being done to make an arrest?” and that’s when he told me they had a warrant – then police worked over the next few hours to get the photos out – and then this morning, after more extensive patroling, the arrest. In the first year or so of this site, I notably railed against graffiti vandalism of all kinds – when it’s not painted out, it’s like a crime that keeps victimizing over and over again, as more and more people are visually assaulted – but in this case, with it being a profane hate message, the effect was multiplied. We will track this through the system – TR

    Comment by WSB — 12:31 pm December 17, 2009 #

  17. Our mental health system is so broken, I feel sad for all the people who desperately need it like this man. :(

    Comment by koni — 12:52 pm December 17, 2009 #

  18. I’d be interested to know if we could somehow as a community have a chance to let the courts know how much Cox’s actions have terrorized our neighborhood. If 100 of us wrote letters or showed up in court would it help anything? Can all these blog postings and comments be printed out and sent to the courts for consideration? We all know the legal system is so messed up and people with mental illnesses rarely get the help they need. So what do we do about that? Jail isn’t a long term solution, but I do not want this guy on the loose, I am afraid of what his next step will be. Too many recent high profile violent crimes by people with untreated mental illness. Perhaps if the judge can see how many people this has affected for a such prolonged period of time, could getting Cox some more intense intervention be more likely? Just a thought…

    Comment by LP — 12:52 pm December 17, 2009 #

  19. LP – I will ask. What I am learning as I dig into the side story of “what happens now and what will happen for a different outcome from the spring arrest” is that the court needs to be convinced that this is a “serious offense” – not “just” a property crime – if it is a “serious offense,” the legal experts tell me, a defendant could even be ordered to take medication to be “restored to competency” to stand trial. That did NOT happen after the May arrest – he was evaluated, found not competent, but it was not deemed that level of “serious offense.” I have another person to talk with before I will write this as a separate story but I will be sure to ask that specific question, if public input makes a difference. For what it’s worth, I can tell you it is certainly cited in court cases – I was surprised, when I covered Skyelar Hailey’s sentencing in October (only journalist there), that the prosecutor made a point of how the West Seattle community clearly had been so shaken up by his repeat offenses, and even pointed me out sitting in the jury box (where reporters/photographers can sit if there’s no jury) as an example of that, the fact I was there to cover the sentencing – TR

    Comment by WSB — 12:59 pm December 17, 2009 #

  20. Thanks TR! Also, he’s being charged with 5 counts, but obviously he’s done it hundreds of times. So now that he’s been caught on film in the act, can other counts be tacked on to that, if they’ve been documented somehow (photos, your news reports, etc)?

    Comment by LP — 1:09 pm December 17, 2009 #

  21. LP- thanks for the comments you’ve written: very goods points and part of a reasonable discussion that isn’t flooded with over the top emotion or name calling.

    in simple terms, I’d like to echo the sentiment that I hope this guy is off the streets long enough to get the help and punishment that is warranted for the damage that has been caused.

    Comment by sam — 1:10 pm December 17, 2009 #

  22. At least we know that we are not dealing with a lactose intolerance issue here….

    Comment by Bob Loblaw — 1:17 pm December 17, 2009 #

  23. Is a bus shelter at a stop considered city property? Does the level of seriousness increase if the vandalism is on a bus shelter? Earlier this week, I saw what I would believe to be the same 3 letter phrase on the bus stop shelter on Fauntleroy, closest to the side of Thriftway.

    Comment by GMW — 1:22 pm December 17, 2009 #

  24. Yes, a bus shelter is city property. There have been numerous instances of bus, park etc. property, in addition to businesses and private homes. I don’t know that it increases the level of seriousness, but will ask that too when I speak to the expert to whom I have a message out … TR

    Comment by WSB — 1:32 pm December 17, 2009 #

  25. Thanks WSB and I mean you TR, for the tireless energy you have for not only this story, but so many more that touch this community.
    And I might add, this community is becoming stronger
    because of these efforts on your part.

    Comment by old timer — 2:02 pm December 17, 2009 #

  26. I’m glad he’s off the streets. But the amount of bail is a concern. $1,330 isn’t very much money, if someone has to put up even that much.

    Comment by Nancy — 2:02 pm December 17, 2009 #

  27. Nancy – that may change at future hearings – this is the initial amount. We will be tracking whether he does indeed have a court appearance tomorrow or later (there is some question about whether the Mental Health Court will be involved immediately) – I’ve got to be downtown tomorrow morning to cover an entirely unrelated court case anyway!

    Comment by WSB — 2:09 pm December 17, 2009 #

  28. Old Timer, thank you – there’s the old saying “knowledge is power” – and even in this day of much more direct citizen access to information, there is still some value in someone helping find it, interpret it, deliver it, so that’s what we try to do – and there is also power in the fact that so many people come here to share and/or seek information, as opposed to being fragmented in a million different places not knowing they all have the same interest/concern – TR

    Comment by WSB — 2:11 pm December 17, 2009 #

  29. Someone mentioned a ‘teenager arrested at QFC with stolen coins.’ Is there any additional information anywhere about that? We live in the neighborhood just above the Fauntleroy ferry and someone went through numerous cars and trucks on our street on Monday night taking coins, phones, etc.

    Comment by Cindy Lou — 2:26 pm December 17, 2009 #

  30. I believe that was an allusion to the notorious “burglarbustindad” case covered here a few months ago. Detailed here (and in other reports, but this has the transcription of the police report)
    http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=20869

    Comment by WSB — 2:38 pm December 17, 2009 #

  31. Lets not overreact to the weapons charge. Certainly his mental instability paired with a knife could be a potentially dangerous combination, but as far as I know he has never escalated to violence.

    It is legitimately dangerous to be homeless, and I was homeless I’d probably carry a knife too.

    Comment by Jacob — 2:48 pm December 17, 2009 #

  32. There is NOTHING! that the Seattle justice system will do that will deter graffiti vandals. Everybody needs to get that into their heads. The people that say that he needs helps make me want to puke. I personally don’t care what the message was. It was the act of vandalism that needs to be addressed. I would say banish him from this city and cut off a finger for every violation. (Don’t bother responding to that last statement. I know it won’t happen but I can hope can’t I)

    Comment by Larry — 2:49 pm December 17, 2009 #

  33. The distinction between serious and non-serious offenses does not necessarily control the outcome in this case. RCW 10.77.088 provides that even in cases of non-serious offenses, the court has the power to detain a mentally incompetent defendant for a sufficient period of time to allow a mental health evaluation and potentially begin commitment proceedings. I suspect courts do not often take this course, but it is available if the evidence warrants it.

    As for whether this is or is not a serious offense, I think it probably is. RCW 10.77.092 lists what offenses are “serious” for purposes of restoring competency to stand trial. the list includes all harassment offenses in RCW 9A.46, and the harassment offenses include malicious mischief in the third degree. Third degree malicious mischief encompasses graffiti on public or private buildings and other structures. If the court does conclude that this is a serious offense and the defendant is not competent, then the court is required to take certain steps related to restoring competency to stand trial. This may or may not include continued detention, however.

    LP asked whether the community can let the courts know about the impact of this offender’s actions. The short answer is yes. I think the best way is often through communication with the charging authority, which is either the Seattle City Attorney or the King County Prosecutors office. I bet the assigned prosecutor or the victim advocates office can advise on how to present community-based information and concerns.

    FWIW, I’m a criminal defense lawyer. I don’t have any personal opinion on this defendant’s competency or criminal liability. As a member of the community, I don’t think the “throw away the key” method is a great solution for anyone. We are all better served in the long run if the outcome, whether it’s mental-health related or punishment, leads to long-term protection of the community and fairness to those who face charges.

    Comment by Amanda — 3:02 pm December 17, 2009 #

  34. My point (above) is that I think it is a mistake to link this kind of behavior too closely to mental illness. I have heard (otherwise) sane and stable people in West Seattle say things similar to what this guy was writing. It’s not the kind of thing that gets cured by a stint in the asylum.

    Comment by Jim — 3:02 pm December 17, 2009 #

  35. If “otherwise sane and stable people” that you know are condoning hate speech and sexual violence against children, they are neither sane nor stable.

    Comment by austin — 3:22 pm December 17, 2009 #

  36. I agree, Jim. I think that the message is totally relevant. This is hate-filled vandalism; it would be menacing and of concern even if it was printed on flyers and left in mailboxes.

    In light of what this vandal has been writing, I would like to see that he be required to undergo some level of diversity education, in addition to treatment for his mental health issues. It seems that he (and some others who promote hatred against gays) tend to equate homosexuality with pedophilia. While this person has taken his misinformation to an extreme, it would be nice if at some point he was faced with some statistics and facts regarding pedophiles.

    BTW, I concur with what “old timer” said.

    Comment by homedk — 3:23 pm December 17, 2009 #

  37. YESSSSSS

    Comment by LMA — 3:27 pm December 17, 2009 #

  38. Jim, serious question. What part of mental illness don’t you understand? The part that makes people’s thinking disordered? The part that makes people paranoid? The part that makes people not connected with reality?
    .
    I am just offering these as suggestions as I have no clue as to what the suspect’s issues are. Apologies if that is out of line in any way.
    .
    But I am really tired of the ignorance here. Especially since bashing the homeless and the mentally ill is okay, but suggesting that fat people might possibly maybe benefit from feeling a little responsible for their weight gets you a sanctioned personal attack and aggressive protection.
    .
    YUCK squared.
    .
    I’m done.

    Comment by Kayleigh — 3:29 pm December 17, 2009 #

  39. Soooo weird, but this guy was standing behind my car last Monday 12/7 when I picked up my daughter from her Spanish language school (CA Ave. and Juneau). He didn’t realize I was approaching, and b/c he was SO close the back of my car (which seemed just downright WEIRD given that he was holding a gallon bottle of milk and nothing else), I hit the keyless entry alarm so the car would start beeping. He looked up, saw me, and quickly scampered away.

    I don’t know what he was INTENDING, if anything, but I’m SO glad he didn’t “tag” my car w/ some bullsh*t graffiti now that I know who it was.

    As for him not standing trial previously b/c he isn’t competent to do so. I worked w/ the severely mentally ill (schizophrenics and bi-polar) for 3 years back in my early college years, helping them find jobs in the community, job coaching them when they needed it, assisting them w/ preparing resumes and interviewing, etc. When these folks take their meds they are BRIGHT and AMAZING individuals. I learned so much from our “clients”, and it prepared me for meeting my biological mother in my 30′s, who is bi-polar.

    That said, empathy only goes so far for me when someone refuses to take their medication, and/or be a productive member of society. This man has CHOSEN to be homeless. He is CHOOSING to commit crimes. And CHOOSING to not take his meds. I assume he is an adult. Therefore, it is not his families responsibility to “MAKE” him do a damn thing. I’m sure they’ve spent a lifetime trying to help him, feed him, encourage him, etc. It’s a heartbreaking thing to watch someone with a debilitating mental illness (and it IS an illness people) choose to live his/her life this way.

    But it’s still HIS choice, even if he doesn’t always understand what he’s doing. He either needs to take responsibility for his actions, or be hospitalized for the rest of his life. Sadly, there is little chance he’ll get the help he needs w/ regard to medication &/or correction of behavior that he seems hell bent on participating in.

    Very sad, but it also pisses me off, b/c it’s SO not necessary for it to have gone this far.

    Comment by Cheryl — 4:49 pm December 17, 2009 #

  40. Regarding the system, I have spoken to the city attorney who supervises the Mental Health Court and have a lot of context to add to this – those interest, please watch for that later tonight – TR
    .
    (added) PS — thanks to commenter who is a lawyer and adds additional context – our system held your comment and I just saw/approved it.

    Comment by WSB — 4:55 pm December 17, 2009 #

  41. I’m not doubting that he’s mentally ill. I’m doubting that his opinion on the subject will change once he has been “rehabilitated.” Every crime is hateful by definition and in most cases conscious and volitional. We can’t treat that.

    Comment by Jim — 5:28 pm December 17, 2009 #

  42. Just tonight I noticed that one of his tags is still on Admiral Way. It is on the cement wall along where Schmitz Park is. I am hoping my first grader doesn’t see it on his way home from school – it is not something I want to try to explain…

    Comment by Yumpears — 8:38 pm December 17, 2009 #

  43. WSB and Mark, yep those are the folks I figured would be commenting. What do you think the brit’s would have given on that?

    Comment by Dale — 1:03 am December 18, 2009 #

  44. “I feel sad for all the people who desperately need it like this man”

    maybe you missed the part where he was ordered into mental health services – free services – and refused to go and refused to take his free meds, all paid for by us the taxpayer.

    Comment by West Seattle — 7:51 am December 18, 2009 #

  45. First tagging, then tagging in very large letters, then throwing rocks through windows, then possession of dangerous weapons. Does anyone else see a scary pattern developing here?!!?

    I hope Ryan gets the help that he’s screaming out for before someone gets hurt.

    Comment by Glenn — 10:08 am December 18, 2009 #

  46. Cheryl’s comment is right on. Being mentally ill is not a license to do whatever you want to everyone else with no consequences. Washington needs a “guilty but insane” law.

    Comment by Josh — 10:19 am December 18, 2009 #

  47. COX, RYAN JOSHUA Custody/Facility: Seattle Correctional Facility Total Bail Amount: $ 20,001.00

    Comment by Born To Be Mild — 12:34 pm December 18, 2009 #

  48. Thanks for the update. I was just about to check with city attorney re: outcome of hearing this morning, if it happened – TR

    Comment by WSB — 12:40 pm December 18, 2009 #

  49. This nanny state thing is not sustainable. One day people It’s going to be of low priority, these acts. Sheltered and scared
    is how I see this town. The fake sincerity, the puritan values, the
    have and have not’s. Really, a guy writing on a wall, and a lynchin’
    party pops up in a comments section ? Y’all are sorta cowardly too. Such larger issues out there…two wars ( remember ?)
    no health care except for the rich, Western Sarhara, now there’s some folks that could use a latte…I will leave now. The line starts way back there, for your scorn.

    Comment by j.level — 7:09 am December 20, 2009 #

  50. It’s occurring to me now, reading all these comments that my encounter w/ him outside of my daughter’s school is actually quite scary. What the hell is he doing hanging out around schools anyway?

    With the last three high profile acts of violence here in Seattle being committed by known mentally ill men (the police officer murders and the rape/murder of Teresa Butz and rape/attempted murder of her partner), I’m NOT inclined to let this man “get off” on the technicality that he’s incompetent. Clearly, he is.

    I don’t want something bad happening near my daughter’s school b/c some judge (or the state of WA) is too PC or afraid to get him some mental health assistance. Jeebus! I’m sorry he’s ill, but if his graffiti has frightening content to those who’ve actually SEEN it, then it IS scary.

    Comment by Cheryl — 4:18 pm December 20, 2009 #

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