GATEWOOD STABBING FOLLOWUP: The suspect’s past; the case’s future

(WSB photo by Christopher Boffoli)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Not long after we started reporting last night on the knife attack that seriously injured a 40-year-old man, speculation about the attacker’s identity focused on one repeat offender well-known in the Morgan Junction/Gatewood area: Ryan Cox.

This morning, we confirmed with police that he is the 39-year-old man who is in their custody, even as he remains hospitalized for what they described as self-inflicted stab wounds.

Cox has been in and out of the criminal-justice and mental-health systems for years. He first came to attention in West Seattle in 2009, when police asked for help identifying a man who had been on a vandalism spree, writing homophobic slurs on private and public property – not far from the scene of last night’s attack (police-released 2009 photo at right). But his criminal record dates to his late teens, according to online records.

Before we get into more about Cox’s background, an update on the victim:

Although we don’t know the name of the man he is accused of stabbing, we do know thanks to a comment from a family friend, below our first report, that he is expected to recover. As his wounds originally were described as “life-threatening,” that was not a given.

We also have a little more information from police regarding what happened last night, via the report “narrative” filed regarding the attack. We obtained it from SPD, and here’s what else it says:

When police arrived last night, they found the man now identified as Cox “wearing a green jacket and a backpack and holding a cloth bag in one hand. Witnesses on scene started pointing toward him and yelling, he has a knife.” As officers approached him, they said he “was holding a cell phone in his left hand and just finished placing a folding pocket knife on top of a blue Hyundai Elantra which was parked on the west side of California Avenue SW, facing southbound. (One officer) observed (Cox) bleeding heavily from the right thigh.”

(WSB photo by Christopher Boffoli – investigators examining the car where the knife was found)

Then people yelled to direct them to the victim, who they found lying on his back on the ground, with two people “standing over him.” One officer began applying pressure to the victim’s largest wound, on his chest, and then Seattle Fire arrived, taking both men to Harborview, with an officer following each medic unit.

As for what investigators heard about the circumstances, all the narrative says is this:

Wítnesses on scene stated they observed (the suspect and victim) arguing next to a white SUV, then (Cox) aggressively lunged toward (the victim) with a knife and began slashing and stabbing (him). When he stopped the attack and started to walk away, (the victim) yelled, ‘Why did you just do that? You just killed me! Call 911!”

In the eight years since we first reported on Cox, this is the most serious crime of which he’s been accused. He has not been in the state prison system, the Department of Corrections tells us, and so the mug shot at right, released by police in 2009, is the only one we have. But more than a few of our previous reports include mention of him carrying a knife, like this one from September 2011, related to a stalking/harassment case involving a woman who lived in the Morgan Junction area. That story also mentioned our e-mail conversation with Cox’s mother, who told us at the time:

Ryan has had court-ordered treatment in the past, just for a few weeks at a time. When he takes the medications, he is nearly normal and we can have a conversation. When he is released with prescriptions and a medical card to pay for the prescriptions, he chooses to not take them. Then it’s impossible to communicate with him.

Some of his cases have been referred to the city Mental Health Court, but it has its limitations, as its chief judge told the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council in 2014. During the meeting in which she talked with the group and meeting attendees, Cox was brought up, and we discovered that he was the subject of an arrest warrant; police picked him up the next day.

Four years earlier, we had covered a Mental Health Court hearing for Cox, on the second graffiti-vandalism case against him. In that January 2010 hearing, the judge asked if he knew why he was there, and he tried to explain himself as follows:

Cox: “I was being harassed by my relatives … to strike back at them (I did) anti-gay graffiti.”

Judge Edsonya Charles: “How does that strike back at them?”

Cox: “(unintelligible) The goal of the cult is to force me to commit suicide or turn gay, so I strike back by discriminating against all gay people.”

He was found incompetent to stand trial, and the case was dismissed. That same story explained the rules regarding committing people who are accused of misdemeanors – and the short amount of time that is allowed for attempts to “restore” competency (usually via forced medication) so that the suspect can be tried. Cox indicated that he’d been through the process repeatedly, and said he could “use the $40” that he said was usually provided as “walking money” when someone is turned loose from Western State Hospital.

The next month, he was back in jail and court – briefly – accused of tire-slashing. He waived trial, pleaded guilty, was given a suspended sentence and time to pay a fine, and released.

And in August 2010, he was arrested for graffiti vandalism and knife possession and found incompetent to stand trial, then sent to Western State Hospital for evaluation.

That was the last we heard about him for more than a year, until his September 2011 arrest.

And again, a gap of a year, until October 2012, when he was arrested and accused of a baseball-bat attack on a man as they left a bus in West Seattle, and the victim told police he believed he was targeted because of his sexual orientation. Cox was charged with malicious harassment – the hate-crime statute – and it went unresolved for months, as he was found incompetent to stand trial at one point. Finally in July 2013, he pleaded guilty, and received a sentence that was less than the time he had served in jail (nine months) by that point, so he was released.

Then in December 2013, we found his name on the King County Jail Register; he was being held for assault. He was arrested for spitting on someone, pleaded guilty, and got what equaled a month in jail.

The month after his release, he was back in jail. That was 2014, and by mid-year, his release from jail was the last we’d heard of him – until last night. (So far, our check of online records hasn’t turned up anything major in the meantime – an open-container liquor citation last December was the last case listed.)

WHAT’S NEXT: Police say Cox will be booked into jail once he is “medically cleared” to leave the hospital. We are continuing to check the King County Jail Register. After that, the next step would be a bail/probable cause hearing, and then a decision on whether to charge him.

9:53 PM UPDATE: The jail register shows Cox was booked just before 8 pm tonight. That means he’s likely to have a bail hearing tomorrow.

38 Replies to "GATEWOOD STABBING FOLLOWUP: The suspect's past; the case's future"

  • Wsrez August 9, 2017 (4:08 pm)

    I remember Ryan running while pouring milk on the street in 2007 or 2008. I remember when the graffiti incident happened and reading it on WSB. I see the photo in the story from 2009 he has a gallon of milk.

  • M August 9, 2017 (4:39 pm)

    Is it possible he could be found incompetent to stand trial and get off from attempted murder? At what point can he be kept off the streets for a long time so we can feel safe around here? 

  • D Del Rio August 9, 2017 (4:43 pm)

    He attacked someone with a baseball while committing a hate crime, and he was sentenced to less time than the nine months he had already served? There is definitely something wrong with our judicial system. How beating someone with a bat could not be considered a felony I just can’t understand. Even if this wasn’t a hate crime, he should still be in jail in my opinion.

  • flimflam August 9, 2017 (4:49 pm)

    oh good lord.

  • ScubaFrog August 9, 2017 (5:17 pm)

    Ryan again huh.  I wish I had the answers for serial offenders.  Hopefully Ryan goes to prison for a long long time on this one.

    I sure hope the victim recovers quickly, how scary.

  • Will August 9, 2017 (5:49 pm)

    The police have been called on him prior to last night. Just a couple weeks ago, our neighbors called the cops and gave his name as an agressor who keeps coming down our alley yelling slurs at everyone. The cops knew he was around..

  • Scooterista August 9, 2017 (5:52 pm)

    Given all the reports people made in the comments on last night’s WSB story, Cox was hanging out in his usual neighborhood, getting more and more threatening and unhinged over the last several weeks. I find myself wishing that there had been some public way to collect those reports of encounters. I would have liked to have known he was back again and escalating, for my own safety and the safety of others.

  • Anu August 9, 2017 (5:53 pm)

    I would also like to know the answer this question by M. As tragic as this must be for Ryan Cox’s family, I do wish there’s a way he could get the help he needs and we can feel safe in our beloved neighborhood. My husband saw Ryan just 30 minutes before the attack last night. He was muttering to himself. I saw him a couple of weeks ago when I was walking our dog. He was sitting on the lawn at Gatewood Elementary. Some cops came by and asked him to leave. He got upset before he walked away. Upsetting him and having him go somewhere else is not the solution to this.

    My heart goes out to the victim’s family. I wish him a speedy recovery. It’s so scary to think it could have been any of us. We’re all thinking of you, neighbors.

    • Kram August 9, 2017 (7:34 pm)

      We don’t want to upset unstable felons, they should be able to spend as much time as they want at an elementary school…

      He should have been in Washington State Hospital.

      • Anu August 9, 2017 (8:50 pm)

        @KRAM: I apologize if I offended you. That’s not what I meant. Obviously, no stranger, felon or otherwise, should be hanging out at an elementary school. What I meant is that just asking him to leave means he goes and harasses somebody else.  It’s not a solution. I’ve seen him hanging out near the school many times and it makes me concerned about the kids’ safety. I agree with you. He should be in a mental health care facility.

        • Chris August 9, 2017 (10:20 pm)

          I am so surprised at this thread of information…and that the teachers & caregivers at Gatewood & Cottage School have not requested that Ryan Cox be monitored by Police on a regular basis. My granddaughter is a student at Cottage School and this is alarming that children are playing in the upper garden and on the patio so close to this obviously dangerous person.   In fact…I am shocked!   My granddaughter is very outgoing and would engage him in conversation if he approached her and she would be the one to try and defend fellow classmates.   If he is released back into the West Seattle/Gatewood area something will have to change in this picture.   Very scary! 

        • Karen August 10, 2017 (11:39 am)

          Anu, thanks to you and hubby for monitoring this.  My daughter and I heard the sirens but didn’t go outside to investigate. I didn’t hear what happened until your hubby came back to report.  I truly believe that as a society we need to take better care of our mentally ill citizens, for their health and well being and for ours. But so scary (as a mom) thinking of my daughter walking past Gatewood school on the way home from C Line bus stop and possibly being one of his victims.

  • justmej August 9, 2017 (6:10 pm)

    I wonder if he was the one who left graffiti on the walls of the Senior Center last week, along with some other tagging down the street. They looked to be the same letters he was seen creating in the previously posted photos. Not that it matters, much smaller of a crime than the attack. This guy needs serious help/medication. Sure hope the victim can quickly get on with their life without too much residual trauma. Hard to get past something like that.

    • WSB August 9, 2017 (6:18 pm)

      He was not a tagger. Those tags were the work of taggers showing off their signatures. He just wrote stuff, not signed, not in that puffy style.

  • Mom2boys August 9, 2017 (7:09 pm)

    His poor mother . I’m reading about the Teresa Butz case right now . Book ” While the City Slept” a lot of similarities with the mental health issue and our states inability to treat. 

  • Concerned August 9, 2017 (7:10 pm)

    Reading this laundry list of criminal charges Cox has makes me question WHAT IS BEING DONE ABOUT THIS MAN? I’ve called 911 on him once and I know my neighbor has 4 times! Come on SPD step up and protect the community you serve.

    My family’s prayers with the victim and his family.

    • So August 9, 2017 (11:47 pm)

      What do you want the police to do Concerned? It isn’t illegal to yell gay slurs. It sounds like the police risk their own safety often to deal with this violent felon. Make better choices for city council and encourage the rest of our neighbors to do the same. Have you ever heard Herbold talk about making sure we have enough police on the street? Her new crusade is making sure landlords can’t weed out violent felons. This article and witnesses said the police helped save the victims life. Vote for legislators to empower the police, not the opposite.

  • Please help him August 9, 2017 (7:56 pm)

    It seems clear he is not stable and is a danger to the communuty with a long track record. Where is the help he needs? He clearly can’t advocate for himself and the criminal behavior  (rooted in mental illness?) is very problematic. System needs to work better. Kudos to WSB for chronicling his history. Hope victims and perp (perhaps a victim of sorts himself?) get better.

  • Ok August 9, 2017 (8:42 pm)

    “Ryan has had court-ordered treatment in the past, just for a few weeks at a time. When he takes the medications, he is nearly normal and we can have a conversation. When he is released with prescriptions and a medical card to pay for the prescriptions, he chooses to not take them. Then it’s impossible to communicate with him.”

    I would say listen to Mom , or look a people who released him – next time you live with him a year – 


    • S August 10, 2017 (1:50 pm)

      She can’t make him live with her.  Or perhaps she’s too elderly.  

      Mental health cases are far more complicated than most people are making  them out to be.  If you’re interested in a personal tale about schizophrenia and the mental health system in U.S. and U.K., I highly recommend Elyn Sak’s memoir The Centre Cannot Hold.  It’s compelling reading and makes you wonder what the best course of action is for someone like Ryan Cox or others suffering from schizophrenia or psychosis. 

  • Ok August 9, 2017 (8:44 pm)

    Should look at people who released him 

    • Katie August 10, 2017 (6:11 am)

      It is very difficult to hold someone for any length of time at a facility. The law disfavors commitment. On top of that, there are endless waiting lists, including for people who need help desperately. We need more facilities and broader abilities to impose medication on the demonstrably criminal. 

  • Morgan August 9, 2017 (9:04 pm)

    Washington state law is more lenient than other states when it comes to committing people to mental health institutions, and we don’t have enough beds. Talk to your state legislators. Enough with wasted energy on making tent cities  and let’s get down to brass tacks on helping some of those folks that are dangers to themselves and others..

  • Morgan August 9, 2017 (10:44 pm)

    The Morgan Junction Association needs to hold a community meeting this week and invite the King County Prosecutor as well as the Chief of Police and the Captain of Southwest Precinct. We need some accountability for protecting the community from this violent individual. Lisa Herbold, can you help to organize this? I feel we need representation and a viable plan forward. The status quo has failed two times now and people are getting hurt! Leaders need to lead.

  • West Coast Nomad August 10, 2017 (12:17 am)

    This situation is incredibly tragic and frustrating. I have sympathy for (and family experience with) those suffering mental illness, however I’m hopeful it doesn’t take a homicide before something is finally done about someone this dangerous roaming in the community. I also find it interesting how some people who are suspected of brandishing, much less using weapons, have lost their lives while authorities and courts seem unable to keep people who are actually dangerous off the streets.  

  • Michelle August 10, 2017 (6:43 am)

    I am so relieved to hear that the victim is recovering!!! 

    As for Mr. Cox, I understand that legally, it’s challenging to deal with him when he’s ‘just’ yelling and screaming and acting out since those actions, alone, are not against the law. But I feel like Mr. Cox’s extensive history of mental illness and coinciding crimes need to be taken into account. He continues to be released and I have a big problem with that.

    Will it take him actually killing someone to make that happen? I don’t see that sacrifice as worthy and certainly not one anyone should have to pay.

    • sw August 10, 2017 (11:32 am)

      This has gone beyond just being a nuisance.  Even if in an addled state, his actions have consistently elevated from vandalism to minor assault to attempted murder.  I implore Lisa Herbold and Joe McDermott to work with our local, county and state officials to help our neighborhood.  This has gone on long enough.

  • Aero August 10, 2017 (6:44 am)

    Not surprising. There are so many mentally unstable people like this out there and our courts do nothing about it. He has been arrested in the past, so I wouldn’t blame this on the police as some are. Our justice system needs to do more to commit people like this if they can’t be trusted to take their medication. He (along with others) poses a risk to all in our community, and he shouldn’t be on the streets.

    We have very lenient laws in regard to committing people involuntarily. Instead of spending more tax payer dollars on tent cities and RV safe lots, let’s do more to help those who are currently on our streets dealing with mental illness. It will make our community safer overall.

    • jp August 10, 2017 (8:20 am)

      Agree to all. I hope Herbold is reading these threads. I’m sick of our lack or leadership in the council, county and state. I will pay taxes but the misguided usage of funds is mind blowing. Too bad it takes incidents like this to rile us up. Bigger question, is their an org. or person we can turn to who has some clout,  instead of speaking out to our reps, which has been futile. Frustrating not having a voice anymore in this city.

  • Nick Hall August 10, 2017 (8:44 am)

     I came upon this seen and tried to pass by but couldn’t. I guess the military medic in me wouldn’t allow

    It. I read comments about Mr. Cox and his mental state. To the Gatewood community,  be concerned those were very vicious knife wounds; it  is my sincere belief he was trying to kill the victim.  I and another civilian may have been the difference between life and death. we forced him to breath when he wanted to give up WE (the lady and I   applied the pressure to his chest ).  
    To lady that cared , Thank you for your kind humanity.

    • AJP August 10, 2017 (9:23 pm)

      THANK YOU for stopping and taking care of him as best you could. 

  • Guy August 10, 2017 (8:51 am)

    I appreciate the work of WSB.  Thanks for letting us know he’s back in the area.

    • WSB August 10, 2017 (9:23 am)

      Well, currently he’s in the King County Jail. His probable-cause/bail hearing likely will be this afternoon – I have already inquired with the King County Prosecutor’s Office. And we’ll have a followup afterward.

  • Rob August 10, 2017 (4:18 pm)

    I emailed Lisa Herbold asking for her help with engaging the SW Precinct, Police Chief, herself and the community.  Will advise of response.

  • P W August 11, 2017 (7:14 pm)

    There are numerous people in jail who have never done anything as violent as target and attack someone with a baseball bat.

  • P W August 11, 2017 (7:18 pm)

    What can our City Council members, or the SW Precinct police do about the sentencing guidlines for violent offenders?

    The incarceration of non-violent offenders add too much pressure to an over-taxed system; and bleeds resources that could be applied to mentally unstable, violent offenders like Mr. Cox.

    I think this is more of a State issue, and transcends any blame; or response our neighborhood officials could provide.

  • Rob August 12, 2017 (10:15 am)

    Via Facebook, here is her response: For folks who are concerned about Ryan Cox’s release, I’ve been informed that though he has not been charged yet, the filing of the case should be shortly coming. Witnesses to this specific incident should contact SPD. Community members that want to insure that the court is aware of Mr. Cox’s danger to the community, the time for their input will be during the sentencing phase of the case.

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