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.”
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.