UPDATE: West Seattle High School instructional assistant arrested in online sex sting

11:37 PM: We’ve been working all evening to find out more about an arrest announced by West Seattle High School principal Brian Vance in an early-evening email to families. (Thanks to the many parents who forwarded it to us.) He wrote: “Earlier today, I was notified of the arrest of one of our instructional assistants by the King County Sheriff’s Office,” Vance wrote, adding that the staffer “was immediately placed on administrative leave by Central Office.” His letter named the man, but he is not charged, so we are not publishing his name at this point. The King County Jail Register showed that the 34-year-old man was booked after 9 pm Tuesday for “investigation of sexual abuse of a child” and released at 7 pm tonight after posting bond. According to the jail register, his bail had been set at $20,000. KCSO told us the arrest was one of seven related to what they announced was “an operation to apprehend subjects who have targeted minors for the purposes of prostitution. … Over the course of the two-day operation, detectives posed as an underage girl and engaged in over 900 texts/voice conversations. The ‘underage girl’ arranged to meet the suspects at a local motel. When the men arrived, they were arrested.” Meantime, Vance’s note to families stressed that “the arrest (was) not directly connected to WSHS.” We will be following up tomorrow with both the district and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

ADDED 11:17 AM THURSDAY: Just obtained the probable-cause document from the KCPAO. The potential charge is “Attempted Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor.” Investigators say that in communication with a detective pretending to be a 14-year-old girl, he agreed to pay “her” $150 for “unprotected sex.” He was arrested when he knocked on the door of a motel room in Seatac around 7:44 pm Tuesday. The document says that after his arrest, he told detectives he “worked as a special-education teacher in Seattle.” He is due back in court tomorrow.

ADDED 1:18 PM: The district is so far declining to answer further questions such as how long the suspect has worked for SPS and whether he was working at any other schools. His online resumé, which has been removed since we looked at it yesterday, said he joined the district early this decade.

54 Replies to "UPDATE: West Seattle High School instructional assistant arrested in online sex sting"

  • SLJ December 12, 2019 (7:35 am)

    Thank you to Principal Vance for keeping us informed before rumors started.

    • metoo December 12, 2019 (8:56 am)

      Like what rumors – it didn’t really happen? He didn’t try to bonk a kid at the school? What’s it matter? He’s working with kids! 

      • slj December 12, 2019 (12:30 pm)

        Not that it didn’t happen–I meant rumors about the specifics (where, with whom, etc.) so that parents would know this arrest was related to something off campus.  Obviously he can’t be around kids anymore and the district took care of that.  The police need to look into this more, especially anything that may have happened at school, but I was relieved to hear that he has been arrested and the school was aware.  More information is better, especially with something this serious.  If we didn’t get the letter from Principal Vance, I think parents would be even more concerned.  And yes, rumors tend to fly with situations like this. 

    • Mkl December 12, 2019 (8:56 am)

      Mr Vance has been amazing- so glad he came over to West Seattle Highschool…

      • WSHS supporter December 12, 2019 (10:27 am)

        MLK, sadly, that is not a universally held point of view about the WSHS principal. Also that he said it has nothing to do with WSHS, when the IA is working with underage kids … 

        • WSB December 12, 2019 (10:39 am)

          The principal wrote “the arrest (was) not directly connected to WSHS.” And information *so far* indicates that is accurate. I’m requesting further info from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and will add whatever more we find but according to KCSO, the sting didn’t even happen in West Seattle – it was in south King County (Burien or Seatac). But certainly there are other questions that I’m asking such as whether his work computer, since this was an online sting, might have been involved. – TR

        • WSHS Parent December 12, 2019 (3:11 pm)

          Thank you WSHS Supporter. Brian Vance has not been a very effective principal at all and has consistently failed to communicate with the community on a number of occasions in  timely manner and has also failed in the area of diversity and equity initiatives at this school as was evidenced in the hate speech incident recently. The other incident mentioned in this thread, of a coach propositioning students at the school was handled very poorly – staff, specifically, the Athletic Director, ignored warnings and I believe still has a job. We don’t know what happened here yet, and do not know if vulnerable children were at risk- so yes, it is premature of this principal to make such a claim before a thorough investigation. 

          • anonymous December 13, 2019 (9:15 am)

            I’m a WSHS student.Mr.Vance and the rest of the Admin are doing a great job and working with what they can do. If you really feel that way… please unenroll your student from west seattle HS. 

      • WSResident December 12, 2019 (11:55 am)

        MKL, reading some other blogs I haven’t heard of many parents who blindly love Mr. Vance.

      • Steve December 12, 2019 (6:50 pm)

        Look at all the things that have happened on his watch! The girls jv basketball coach last season when he and his “cronie” AD ignored the warning letter sent by a parent in 2018 of the “grooming” going on by then girls jv basketball coach Mike Gutierrez ( who was criminally charged last June) Now this?? Where is the accountability? I want to know why Vance and Corey Sorensen (AD) were not disciplined by the Superintendent Denise Juneau?  They knew it and swept it under the rug! Great leadership!! 

  • Ed December 12, 2019 (9:20 am)

    But the IA worked with vulnerable students, so they ought to be interviewed to be sure that they are ok and that nothing happened. Their parents ought to be informed. 

    • WSB December 12, 2019 (10:17 am)

      I’m checking with the district this morning with questions like that, as well as with prosecutors to find out more about the case.

      • Amy Hallmon December 12, 2019 (11:33 am)

        Two of my daughter’s friends worked with him, and trusted him. They are devastated. Even if his actions toward them were appropriate, think what that does to a vulnerable teenager to learn that an adult you trusted is actually a predator. This is very sad all around. 

        • reader December 13, 2019 (8:27 am)

          Amy, do you know of any efforts within the school to help students process this (students who were in this guy’s orbit)? Students I’ve talked to are having a really hard time with it. Sounds like the principal is putting his head in the sand (again). 

  • Nicole December 12, 2019 (9:56 am)

    Yuck.  How long is it going to take them to find this guy guilty and SPS to terminate him?! He should be no where near kids the age of his desired target.  

    • wsmom December 13, 2019 (5:49 am)

      I guarantee they will not allow him to work there anymore. 

  • Some guy December 12, 2019 (11:40 am)

    Still though, “sex sting” is such a great turn of phrase. What if it had involved sending provocative messages by phone? Could’ve been a sexting sex sting. And what if it had involved the former frontman for the Police? Could’ve been Sting’s sexting sex sting.

    • WSB December 12, 2019 (1:16 pm)

      Sorry, even 12 years after I left TV news, I still write that way on occasion. Alliteration was always a big thing.

  • dsa December 12, 2019 (12:41 pm)

    What was he thinking?  Can a 14 yo rent a motel room?  At any rate this seems to be a major sting if there were 900 texts/voice messages with suspectS in two days.  I would think we will hear more.  KIRO said a few days ago that there was an effort to clean up the Sea Tac motel 6.

    • WSB December 12, 2019 (1:13 pm)

      The arrest location, 2824 S. 188th, cross-references to the LaQuinta Inn and Suites. Whether a room was rented with the management’s knowledge that it was a law-enforcement operation, don’t know. The brief narrative does say initial contact was via “online escort service advertisements and local Hook-Up applications.” (Does not specify publications/websites.)

  • Scubafrog December 12, 2019 (1:18 pm)

    No way.…  First that we have unidentified predators here (ie unregistered offenders).  Second that the predators are working WITH kids??  Terrifying.  Good on you SPD for the stings

    • WSB December 12, 2019 (1:33 pm)

      Just to clarify, it was KCSO, not SPD. (Burien and Seatac Police also but they are both part of KCSO.)

      • Scubafrog December 12, 2019 (2:26 pm)

        Thanks WSB, my bad — Thanks to the King County Sheriff’s Office then, fantastic work!!

  • SSBB December 12, 2019 (3:22 pm)

    Sometimes, students with special needs won’t recognize coercive behaviors for what they are. I agree with other posters that somebody with a handle on this should figure out if this guy had inappropriate contacts with students at West Seattle High School. It is strange that this was not on this principal’s radar. In his rush to reassure everybody, he sounded forgetful.

    • WSHS Parent December 12, 2019 (4:50 pm)

      SSBB, it does seem strange that this was not on the principal’s radar – but it is not uncommon and this is one of many times he has “rushed” to make singular proclamations. My son’s friend was harassed and racially discriminated against by a staff member at this school (she is still employed) and rather than allowing a complete investigation, covered for the staff accused and dismissed it as a non-event, though there were patterns and evidence. I talked with another parent whose son was beat up badly the first week of school in 2018 – the parents got absolutely no support from this principal and had to quickly get the child enrolled in a private school at huge financial burden – they simply did not trust that their child would be safe under the current WSHS leadership. These are just two examples and there are many more. There is quite a bit that is not on this principal’s radar and I am concerned that this IA’s tenure will not be fully investigated. SPS needs to send in a private investigator to WSHS and interview vulnerable students.

    • ej December 12, 2019 (6:20 pm)

      It is not strange that this was not on Vance’s radar. Pedophiles don’t walk around advertising their deviance on a neon sign. They often hide in plain sight until they make a mistake that gets them caught. I am reading so many assumptions and judgments in these comments with regards to what took place and how it is being handled. My step-son came home stating that a WS Seattle staff tried to have sex with a special ed student at his school and that he has 6 victims.  Based on what I am reading in this article, this could not be farther from the truth at this point. We don’t have all of the information. The adults in the room should be modeling NOT spreading  misinformation and rumors because that is what is clearly happening at school right now. The adults in the room should be talking to their kids to learn if they know this man, had any interactions with him (questionable or not) and talk to them about what to do if they ever find themselves in an uncomfortable or worse situation with a previously trusted adult. The extent of this persons crimes will be investigated & victims will be searched for and possibly discovered. It’s a terrible and disgusting situation and I am just glad this man made a misstep and got caught so no one else is hurt by him. 

      • Bigly December 12, 2019 (10:26 pm)

        EJ, you are missing the point. It’s not that the principal could not spot a predator “hiding in plain sight.” It’s that he did not make the connection between what this guy was arrested for and who this guy was interacting with at school. All that mattered was that the criminal activity that was discovered was off-campus, whereas, who knows what this guy was up to when nobody was looking on campus. 

        • Scubafrog December 13, 2019 (9:28 am)

          This doesn’t make sense.  If you’re saying everyone should have a third-sense for pederasts, and you are, then they’d all be in prison (and not one would ever commit the crime to begin with).A STING captured the pederast.  I’m sure if the Principal had any suspicions he’d have called the police immediately.   The suspect has a clean record and thus was working in the high school.  Not all predators  have “tells”, so your theory is FALSE.

  • Admiral Mom December 12, 2019 (6:32 pm)

    He is a paraeducator for sped students at WSHS. Has worked his whole life around children. ls /was engaged to a beautiul woman. Started studying psychology at Antioch University but dropped out.I hope he gets what he deserves.

  • Bmcc December 12, 2019 (9:30 pm)

    Did anyone read this? Very disturbing and so appalling that an IA has engaged in this behavior…https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/federal-lawsuit-alleges-craigslist-and-several-south-sound-hotels-profited-from-child-sex-trafficking/

  • Mj December 12, 2019 (10:28 pm)

    AM agreed, but stating what I think he deserves cannot be fully said here.

  • anonyme December 13, 2019 (6:20 am)

    EJ, thanks for your reasoned response.

  • T Rex December 13, 2019 (8:22 am)

    If anyone thinks Epstein was the only slime ball doing this on a large scale, think again. Sick sick individuals. In my opinion, if you are involved in anything like this whether you are the child rapist, the motel manager, whomever and it is proved in a court of law, you go to jail the rest of your life. Period. 

  • WSHS Parent December 13, 2019 (8:28 am)

    EJ – my child came home and not a word – said no one was talking about this. In fact, my child hadn’t even heard about it before I mentioned it. My child is very much in the know and active at WSHS and would certainly have heard if the case was “misinformation and rumors because that is what is clearly happening at school right now. ”  It doesn’t appear to be entirely true, and so yes, let’s be mindful before we spread such statements. But what has been recorded is WSHS leadership’s inability to investigate serious past incidents at the school – that is why an outside investigator needs to be brought in here before the principal makes such proclamations.

    • ej December 14, 2019 (8:23 am)

      His “proclamation” was that this arrest did not involve an incident at WS High School. Which is true. That does not mean that there is not a victim at WS High School. It just means the arrest occurred because of a single incident that did not involve the school. 

    • ej December 14, 2019 (8:28 am)

      And to imply that your child “would know” if it was being talked about so therefore it is not is just egocentric. Are you calling my child a liar? Be careful. Not acceptable.

  • Chipowski December 13, 2019 (8:32 am)

    How would this have been on Mr. Vance’s radar, exactly? He doesn’t perform background checks on employees, that happens at the district level. He doesn’t monitor staff 24/7 and he’s not aware of their every movement within the school, he assumes that, as professionals, that they conduct themselves as such, which is not unreasonable.As for other things that are not “on his radar”, just because a kid complains means that there is something actionable and the parent(s) of a kid that feel harassed are not entitled to know what disciplinary action was taken by the school admin. In other words discipline probably happened but it’s none of your business what it was.Administrative staff are just that. They are not cops, they are managers who run a school, utilize specific methods to administer discipline – methods that are not secret, track every single harassment/intimidation/bullying complaint with exhaustive documentation and investigation which is tracked on a district level and is required by law, evaluate staff, manage state testing and have to deal with irate and ill informed parents around the clock thanks to smart phones and email, and supervise school events such as sporting events and dances. I promise you that they earn every penny of their salary. It’s also a job that I wouldn’t do for twice the salary because I don’t have the patience or temperament to deal with the likes of you trigger happy parents.

    • WSHS Parent December 13, 2019 (9:32 am)

      Chipowski – no, I wouldn’t want to do that job. And, some are in that role without facility or talent for it – many who weren’t good teachers and looked for a way out. A principal should be a visionary leader and set the agenda – there is no vision, nor is there a coherent agenda at WSHS under Vance; he is simply not good at his job. The frustration folks are expressing here is with a snippet from his letter: “Given this is an emerging issue and the arrest not directly connected to WSHS.” For many of us, it demonstrates a tone deafness to the emerging situation. Yes, this individual IA was not arrested at WSHS, but to state there is no connection is premature – and yes, it is connected and impacts the community, especially vulnerable students. We do not yet know if vulnerable children at WSHS were directly solicited or harmed by this individual, so again, that statement by the principal is troublesome. Patterns have also emerged in this principal’s leadership style over the past few years, and folks note that, and those events, here as well. I wouldn’t charge these concerned individuals as “trigger happy parents” when they advocate for kids and a safe environment. Are parents who speak up because their teenage daughters are solicited for sex by a coach (as happened at WSHS) “trigger happy” as you express here? If the job is too much for a principal then perhaps they should step aside – but don’t uniformly blame parents and kids for speaking up. As someone involved in education, I have witnessed exceptional leadership from principals under trying circumstances, and then I have seen poor leaders who never quite understand what their roles are and stumble along while the students, staff, teachers and others pay a price. And so no, I do not expect a principal to know everything and police everyone, but I do expect a more sophisticated view and response to these issues – and that letter was more CYA, than caring about students and community. If you had read the responses here, you would have seen that the reference to being on one’s radar was not as you portray it, but more in the response given.

    • WSHS parent December 13, 2019 (9:47 am)

      Chipowski, you are missing the point. As the other poster said, it is not that the principal has to be the all-seeing person who finds the predator ‘hiding in plain sight.’ It is that he did not express concern for students that this guy was coming into contact with at school. Wherever the criminal activity was uncovered, parents want to know about our kids’ well being at the school that he leads. Concern about that should be on any principal’s radar.  

  • Chipowski December 13, 2019 (10:29 am)

    SPS must disagree after his tenure at Roosevelt and the Center School. He was credited with doing a very good job there.As for his contact with a student and whether it was inappropriate: was it? Do you know that students were a part of this? He was  popped in a sting. That’s why this is here. His simply being in proximity to children at the school doesn’t mean that they were his victims and that will be ascertained in the investigation.In this particular case the Mr. Vance is in a lose/lose situation. He cannot say everything that he may know in an open letter, if he knew more at the outset. If he delayed the open letter he would’ve been excoriated for the delay and not telling parent everything immediately. Finally, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. All of the things that people complain about as WSHS also occurred under Dr. Medsker and people complained then as well and they occur at all other schools. All of them. Since forever. Bullying, harassment, drugs, assault et al, have existed since before education was a right and will continue. Forever.I’m not an apologist for administrators, I’m a realist. I recognize that administrator’s run schools that are full of flawed recalcitrant staff (just like the rest of us), hormone fueled children that are parented by hyper-vigilant and terrified parents and are overseen by yet other administrators that are far removed from the day to day operation of the individual school. All of this together means there was no way to succeed. There are the community members that will howl for blood, of both the admin team, the principal in particular, those that will make the assumption that the IS’s proximity to students everyday means that he was involved in inappropriate contact with them, those that are angry that there was a notice sent out with scant detail and those that are angry because outrage is there default state.I feel for Mr. Vance. To have to deal with the likes of this community that just loves to mete out the pain and suffering and to wring their hands chanting “won’t anyone think about the children!” must just wear him out. If you’ll pardon me, I’ll wait until he actually does something wrong before I raise an eyebrow.

    • B.W. December 14, 2019 (3:54 am)

      That has got to be the best response in blog.  Bravo! 

  • WSHS Parent December 13, 2019 (12:09 pm)

    Chipowski – we get it. You are here to run interference for Vance – you’ve done well – to a point. And, you obviously are not in the know, or ignore the serious SPED issues that are well documented under his tenure at Roosevelt – a parent whose child was directly impacted has written here and on other Seattle education blogs about his failings and the sanctions at Roosevelt in these cases that came down from OSPI. Vance is where he is because of white cisgendered privilege – not because he is good at his job. And frankly, stating that he is fine because he has received the SPS stamp of approval indicates you are either a spouse, family member, or District staff – or simply ignorant of how little value that holds. SPS’s stamp of approval has been toxic in many cases – ask parents at FranklinHS, WashingtonMS, etc. if the SPS stamp of approval meant anything to them? Former RBHS principal, now at Madison, ignored allegations of sexual assault on his campus; SPS transferred him – he still has a job – no, the SPS stamp of approval means zero. Finally, Medsker was a hell of lot better at her job than Vance – many of us here miss her tenure. Imperfect, yes, but she was proactive and active on behalf of students and genuinely cared about issues impacting our children. And stop insulting our community and painting folks with a broad brush in your defensive rants – it’s offensive. Accountability – look it up.

  • Chipowsky December 13, 2019 (12:52 pm)

    I don’t know Mr. Vance. I’m not affiliated with SPS or his family. I have no specific interest in Mr. Vance. There is always something to blame on admin no matter where they are from, what field of business they are in etc. there is, at this time, nothing to hang on the principal’s head. The incident in question happened off campus after hours. There have been no allegations involving students. All of this means that there is nothing to say about Mr. Vance, the admin team, SPS, or anything school related. So, go ahead, rant, rend garments, wail as one bereft of hope. I’m sure he’ll get crucified, it’s the way things are done around here. As for myself I’ll wait until there is some connection to students or proof the there was foreknowledge of impropriety before I break out the nails and hammer. Oh, to soothe your sense of outrage, I am a white cis-gendered male. I feel no guilt about it and roll my eyes at the inclusion of this completely irrelevant tidbit. 

    • Tone deaf... December 13, 2019 (8:11 pm)

      To say that the accused predator didn’t have an effect on students if they weren’t direct prey is tone deaf at best, ignorant at worst. Whether you like it or not, in a public school- the main job of the principal is to maintain a safe environment for the students. Vance didn’t, same as he didn’t shield students for the recent racist epidemic on his watch. Seems like he’s completely out of touch and reactive to me. 

      • WSParent December 13, 2019 (10:00 pm)

        My child came home and said someone wrote graffiti at the school in two places at the entrances today: “Rapists Belong Here.” Disgusting. What kind of environment is this? Did anyone hear about this? Between that and the racist  incidents you mention, I wonder what’s going on here? We received a letter about an ADL No Hate initiative. Really? ADL and their aligned history of oppression against Palestinians  is a questionable organization to be in high schools. The admin seems to be flailing and trying to be seen as doing something.

        • WSB December 13, 2019 (10:50 pm)

          We got a call about graffiti vandalism at the school. All cleaned up by the time we got there to check it out.

          • Admiral Mom December 14, 2019 (9:12 pm)

            Unfortunately the graffiti about rapists belong here was a few weeks after the racially charged graffiti.Early last month there was a party off campus. Students that knew of an incident that  took place took it upon themselves to push and run the alleged suspect out of the school. He is no longer there but last I checked there was an ongoing police investigation.I am not Brian’s biggest fan but I do not know what a school administrator can do when an incident occurred away from school and police are involved.

        • ej December 14, 2019 (8:39 am)

          You are blaming the principal and staff for a kid making a bad choice to spray graffiti?! Adults are not responsible for all dumb decisions kids make. This is getting ridiculous. It sounds like you expect school staff to prevent crime and bad behavior (which sounds acceptable on the surface) but unfortunately, our world is not Tom Cruise’s Minority Report. 

  • WSB December 13, 2019 (4:23 pm)

    For those following this thread, the now-suspended IA, Brennan M. Smith, is now charged. Separate story shortly; I’ll add the URL here when it’s up.

    (added) https://westseattleblog.com/2019/12/followup-suspended-west-seattle-high-school-staffer-charged-with-attempted-commercial-sexual-abuse-of-a-minor/

  • Jane December 13, 2019 (8:49 pm)

    Sadly these creeps are teaching at many schools. Just so happens the ones that are getting caught lately are at wshs. Vance is a wonderful principal, this has nothing to do with him. 

    • WSParent December 13, 2019 (9:51 pm)

      Agree with everything you wrote, Jane, except: “ Vance is a wonderful principal, this has nothing to do with him. ” I respectfully disagree; he is not a wonderful principal by any stretch (Read up and talk to others) and since this involves a staff member at his school, it has everything to do with him. 

  • Hawkgal December 18, 2019 (5:30 pm)

    Vance and the district have handled this entire incident poorly. Whether it happened on campus or off doesn’t matter. We were notified in the beginning and then again to warn us they would be interviewing some students at a later date. Then AFTER they interviewed my son they let us know he had been talked to. Our children are part of the special education population and a bit more vulnerable than typical children. Not being present while my child talked with investigators was not okay with me. Doesn’t seem like protecting the children was their first priority.

    • WSHS parent December 19, 2019 (11:41 am)

      Hawkgal, that is very disturbing – the administration and the District investigators should know better. It is not like they “get” disability in the first place. Many other parents are in your shoes. 

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