Why Westwood Village Target had to be evacuated Friday night

(Photo sent by Marlo)

After tips that Westwood Village Target had to be evacuated Friday night, we finally have information about what happened – it was a “person in crisis” situation, according to police, The SPD summary says it started just before 9 pm:

A person in crisis telephoned 911 from within the Westwood Village Target store and made threats to kill themselves. This person is known to Seattle PD for similar incidents. Southwest patrol officers responded to the location. Officers ascertained the location of the crisis subject, contained them, and evacuated the store. Patrol officers verbally contacted the subject and used de-escalation techniques to calm the subject. An on-duty Hostage Negotiator responded from the South Precinct and took over communications with the crisis subject. The HNT member was able to convince the person in crisis to surrender peacefully.

That happened around 9:45 pm, about 15 minutes before the store’s scheduled closing time.

30 Replies to "Why Westwood Village Target had to be evacuated Friday night"

  • Mike January 30, 2021 (5:35 am)

    Well done SPD.

  • Courtney Kochel January 30, 2021 (1:18 pm)

    I witnessed the man with a knife and reported it to security. Even though he called the police himself and so did target personnel, it took the police over half an hour to show up to evacuate store and address the situation.The police response was incredibly disappointing.

    • WSB January 30, 2021 (2:08 pm)

      Do you know what time police were initially called? I was going back through recorded police-radio traffic to try to figure out what this was all about, before obtaining the short report summary at 2 am, and there were a lot of logistics involved, including adding officers from another precinct.

      • Courtney Kochel January 30, 2021 (3:35 pm)

        I witnessed tha man on the phone with police around 9pm and target would’ve called about that time when I reported it to security.  Police didn’t show up until around 9:30 while customers continued to shop unaware what was going on. 

  • Vanessa January 30, 2021 (2:35 pm)

    Do you know if the person was carrying a weapon?I was at Target at 7pm last night with my young daughter. Doesn’t feel like I made a good choice. For the past six months, I’ve dreaded being at Westwood Village in the evening. From the various incidents reported through the blog, I’ve become increasingly nervous being there at all! Recently, my daughter asked why the cops were there, and I had to explain that the blue light was connected to a security camera; there weren’t officers there dealing with something. In trying to waylay her fears, I was pushing down my own. Too bad this is the present situation at our local shopping complex.

  • Mariem January 30, 2021 (3:32 pm)

    I was shopping in the store and at 930pm I heard a minor commotion about 100 feet away from me. I didn’t really look at first as I thought maybe it was some loud teens. As I went on to the next aisle I decided to look in that direction and I saw about 4 people, one with a weapon across his chest gesture and say leave the store. So I left my cart and slowly ran.  It was really confusing mostly because I’ve never experienced anything like this, but also because these were not officers (as I recall) in the regular spd uniform. It was a bit of a blur to me but I only remember seeing one badge and officers were in dark clothing. As I ran past them I remained confused about what was going on as they were relatively “at ease” when I past them. After I got to my car I thought a couple things : 1. How scary it was to see what looked like a semi automatic gun up close 2. Hoped everyone would be okay and 3. How I had trusted the direction of these guys to come their direction and leave the store when truly it was hard to tell (in hindsight) if they were truly police. What if it hadn’t of been legit?  I just remember dark clothing. One badge and one weapon. I’m still sitting with this. And of reading the post, my hope is that the distressed person is able to access the support they need. 

  • Jenny January 30, 2021 (3:33 pm)

    My boyfriend and I were among the customers evacuated from Target last night.  It was a bit strange to read the summary above; it is obviously short on details, but it evokes an image of an orderly, successful process to which a person’s very reasonable response could be “well done SPD”. That doesn’t really sync with how it felt in the moment or with how I’ve thought about it subsequently. My experience was that we were headed to checkout from the back of the store and turned the corner to see a cluster of cops (5? 6? more?) at the opposite end of the aisle who were armed with at least one large rifle and at least one riot shield. Multiple cops yelled instructions at us simultaneously. Then one yelled “hustle!” If they gave us any specific directions—e.g., which route to take to exit safely—they were impossible to understand. We asked which way we should go, and the response was only that we needed to leave. On our way out we told a Target employee who was standing near the kids’ clothing that we thought there were still customers in the back of the store shopping, and we told other customers that we passed that we all had to leave the store; the other customers had no idea an evacuation was in progress. All of the exit doors were locked. There were two cops standing by women’s swimwear chatting while several of us accumulated in the vestibule. There was a line of Target employees standing directly outside as we tried each exit door and found them all locked. We ultimately asked a Target employee who was near the restrooms for help, and the employee responded that they weren’t sure, but maybe the middle (non-exit) door was unlocked? It was unlocked, and we left.There was no systematic effort to evacuate customers that was apparent to me. There weren’t clear instructions given.  There wasn’t a clear way to exit the store. Ultimately it seems everyone—including, importantly, the person in crisis—left the store physically safe. That’s crucial. The “how” matters, though. It is actually quite scary (as a person not in crisis!) to have a group of cops who are *clearly prepared for violent conflict* yell unintelligible things at you. Was I standing between the police and other dangerous people? If I turned left and headed to the exit that way, would I be safe? Were the other oblivious customers I just passed in the cookie aisle in danger? Finally, the number of police and their chosen weaponry does not seem commensurate with responding to one person who allegedly self-reported an intent to harm *themself*; it’s plausible that a cadre of cops with prominently displayed guns and riot shields would exacerbate whatever distress a person is experiencing.  So, rather than say “well done SPD”, I say that I’m thankful everyone left Target safely, I hope the person in crisis is being helped, and I wish that we would establish more orderly and empathetic methods for responding to similar situations in our community.

    • Tia January 31, 2021 (1:45 am)

      Sounds like you were freaked out. Glad you made it out safely. 

  • Anne January 30, 2021 (4:15 pm)

    Well sure glad we so many experts on SPD response. How about all you folks sign up to be civilian responders-since you seem to know better what  & how things should have been done.- not there quick enough-not empathetic enough-not sure of uniforms -& my favorite-their “chosen weaponry “ are you serious? What a thankless job LE has -as more & more leave-we’ll be lucky to get a response within an hour maybe 2- but no matter-one of you “experts” can step in. 

    • Angela January 31, 2021 (12:29 am)

      This^^ Thank you, Anne!

    • Mariem January 31, 2021 (12:59 am)

      Anne, I was not criticizing the uniforms.  I was intending to point out the clothing made it difficult to ascertain  the officers were indeed officers. Most of us are used to seeing our officers in regular uniform so it was just a little confusing- that’s all!  However, I assumed they were and left as quick as I could!   I do not have enough knowledge of the full incident to comment on the performance of spd and my post was NOT critical of officers. I was merely conveying my experience inside the store should it be helpful. I believe the people in the store have a right to share their take on what they experienced. Unless you were there your comment carries far less weight. 

      • Anne January 31, 2021 (8:58 am)

        It sounded like you were criticizing the officers uniforms-Glad to know that wasn’t the case.

    • Yeah January 31, 2021 (8:53 am)

      SPD’s job is to protect and serve the community.  Every shopper in that store is part of the community and if they did not feel protected and in fact felt threatened or scared by the way SPD handled the call, that is completely valid criticism.  It’s something that’s important to talk about as SPD reevaluates how they respond to a person in crisis (or if police officers are even the best people to respond to it in the first place, or if it should be an officer accompanied by a social worker, etc.).  Having the “how could this have been done better” conversation is how reform and improvement happens.  Lack of reforms and improvements over the years is how the conversation got pushed into the territory of “fine, just defund them then.”

    • Mel January 31, 2021 (12:47 pm)

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. If the person did start attempting to hurt others in the store, people would be mad SPD didn’t show up with weapons. You can’t win…

      • Jenny January 31, 2021 (4:30 pm)

        Mel, I didn’t suggest in my original comment that the police should be stripped of all weapons. And I don’t see that any other commenters have implied that, either. I stated that my brief interaction with SPD was a little frightening. The presence of a large rifle did contribute to that.  Obviously none of us has all the relevant details, but it seems the “person in crisis” was one man with a knife, and that those details were communicated to 911 operators. What would have been the most effective and humane way to calm the man and get him to give up his knife?  I’m not sure—100% not my area of expertise.  A half-dozen cops + large rifle + riot shield seems perhaps disproportionate in this particular situation, though, and certainly wasn’t calming to me. These aren’t binary choices: cops with large rifles vs. cops with no weapons at all; SPD status quo vs. no SPD at all.  People should be able to say “I didn’t like these specific things for these reasons. Were they necessary? Could things be done differently in the future?” and not have others reflexively label it a bad-faith attack on police.

        • Mel January 31, 2021 (7:17 pm)

          Jenny- I agree you can voice your opinion as we all can. And I’m sure the whole incident left you shaken. I would’ve felt the same. My comment was really just in reference to the fact that whenever there’s a story involving police, people (in general) who know nothing about policing and tactics make judgments and criticize without all of the details. 

          • Jenny February 1, 2021 (4:42 pm)

            In other words, you were anticipating bad-faith attacks on police, saw a comment that (incorrectly!) alleged that three of us (who were at Target and had details!) had done that, and you co-signed that comment? I *completely* share your frustration with the frequency with which these conversations devolve into anti-police vs. pro-police intransigence. The possibility (inevitability?) of that happening definitely crossed my mind before I commented in the first place, and it caused me to think carefully about what I wanted to say. It’s encouraging to me that the bulk of the discussion here has been compassionate and constructive—there are things that *all* people (community members, Target employees, SPD) could reflect on and improve. (I’ve totally saved the Crisis Line number to my phone—super helpful suggestion.)  Have some faith in your neighbors, Mel! Not everyone’s lurking around, trying to provoke reductive arguments! 

  • Ari January 30, 2021 (5:39 pm)

    My sister and I never saw the knife but we saw the man and had been in the aisle over when we overheard the conversation with the 911 operator. Initially, we thought it was a medical emergency, but as soon as the person-in-crisis started claiming he was going to run at people with his knife, we quickly ran to find the nearest Target employee. I kept asking the employee if someone can clear shoppers from the area, and they unfortunately couldn’t do anything until police arrived. So for the 30 minutes it took for officers to show, we were anxious, hoping they would come quickly. The shoppers were unaware of the threat and continued about their business until armed officers entered the building and prompted us to evacuate. While I am also disappointed in the response time, I’m happy no one was harmed and that the officers were able to deescalate the situation and talk the person-in-crisis down.

  • flimflam January 30, 2021 (8:06 pm)

    Ill ask again – if this person is well known to the police and has done this befor why  weren’t  they in custody or recieving treatment, voluntary or otherwise?

    • Yeah January 31, 2021 (9:12 am)

      As a relative of a mentally ill person who is also well known to local police, I can tell you it’s not that easy.  Involuntary commitment is a BIG hill to climb.  Voluntary commitment is also hard because there are so few beds to begin with, and the patients are often told if they’re well enough to articulately ask to be committed, they don’t really need a bed.  Even a 72-hour hold requires them to be ACTIVELY and credibly in danger or harm to themselves or others (threatening suicide isn’t enough…  they have to be holding the gun, or actually swallowing the pills).  Jail is not the answer.  For one, the person’s actions are rarely illegal to begin with, and even if you can find something to charge them with, the experience of jail makes the mental issues worse, not better, and the chargeable crimes you can come up with for having a mental health crisis in public are misdemeanors with short sentences, meaning the person will be back out on the street soon, and nearly always worse off than when they entered jail.  Our mental health system in this country is fundamentally broken.  Mental illness is still heavily stigmatized and “solutions” are still focused on hiding the problem, or the people, and generally are about making the people around the mentally ill person feel more comfortable (rather than the solutions being about what’s best for the person with the health issue).  The whole system is also woefully underfunded.  If the solution were that easy, it would have been done already.  Until we start thinking about mental health differently and start finding solutions that prioritize the patients, we’re going to stay in the cycle we’re in.

      • B.W. February 1, 2021 (9:01 pm)

        Fantastic insight from YEAH. Thank you.

  • 24hr Crisis Line January 30, 2021 (10:33 pm)

    Please save the 24hr Crisis Line in your phones! 206-461-3222 https://dontcallthepolice.com/seattle/

    • Canton January 31, 2021 (1:29 am)

      While your link to resources is beneficial. May i ask, to you, in honest curiosity… Would you support a proposal to have people that want to eradicate our police department, register their addresses as “do not respond residences”? That way we could keep our officers focused on those that appreciate their service. There are some officers that take advantage of the power of a badge and gun. Most get their power from the duty of thanklessly helping people everyday, with issues no one else would listen to.

  • Pessoa January 31, 2021 (8:46 am)

    Why the defensiveness about any criticism of the SPD?  Slow response time and what some might call a certain “passivity” is a criticism that has plagued the SPD for decades, if what locals say is true.  I think the controversy over BLM has polarized people to the point that some feel they must lavish praise on the SPD simply because they show up and do what they are paid to do.  We all appreciate them, it’s a tough job and we all know it, but they aren’t exempt from criticism either.     

  • Chris January 31, 2021 (9:11 am)

    Target management: you better come up with a crisis and evacuation plan and give your Target Team Members some training! What the heck? Exit Doors locked except for one?

    • Jenny January 31, 2021 (2:48 pm)

      It may be SOP to close most exits when the police are trying to contain someone in the store? Idk. One of the other commenters who was there said that Target employees were unable to evacuate shoppers from the store themselves; I’d certainly hesitate to put the public safety onus on retail employees, especially once SPD arrived on site. That said, lack of clear instructions and egress could conceivably have been a significant problem if the actual threat had been greater and/or the store had been busy. So, yeah—unsure who’s responsible for what, but a better plan would be great.

  • Carol January 31, 2021 (3:35 pm)

    Canton, you seem to be confused about re-ordering the money now being spent on policing. The use of ‘de-funding’ is a poor choice of words. It does not mean the police are being disbanded. More than 50% of calls are not for shootings, stabbing, or hell breaking loose. They are trying to wrangle all the mentally ill folks that inhabit our streets. They are not trained social workers, they are cops. Instead of sending 3 cops with guns blazing, one cop, a social worker and maybe a back up can diffuse many situations. Instead of giant cop shops, store fronts so that the cops get to know the different neighborhood characters. No more Charlene Myles, no dead Native American wood carvers with a pen knife. And I agree, Target needs a disaster plan, to deal with those kind of emergencies.

  • Mariem January 31, 2021 (6:00 pm)

    I was there Friday night and I 100 percent find Jenny’s comments reasonable and not anti police as some have suggested. I personally had no idea what the threat was or why I was being evacuated. It was confusing.  I ran after officers motioned to leave. I instantly thought active shooter potential or bomb – why else would folks be told to leave by police with a semi-automatic weapon? Yet the officers stance did not seem defensive in nature at all.  I would call it “leave now ” as opposed to a real evacuation. There were still folks in the back of the store and I didn’t see anyone alert them. All to say I’m still processing, I don’t know how this should have been handled, but there were some disconnects. Is there a reason Target employees couldn’t have earlier walked up quietly to each shopper to ask them to leave? 

  • Be kind January 31, 2021 (8:12 pm)

    Thanks to everyone who was there for sharing your experience and observations on the situation and how it was handled. Sounds scary and really stressful!

    Agree it’s good to consider how responses and protocols might be improved, how responders might better help and protect.

    Also think there may be good explanations for some of the perplexing things like their uniforms and calm demeanor… might help in reducing panic?

    Regarding the doors being locked, maybe more about ensuring more customers didn’t enter the store during the situation? Perhaps it would have been better if the doors were unlocked but monitored to not let anyone in?

    Also, nice that someone referenced the crisis line as a resource.

    However, imagine this… wouldn’t it be wonderful if people didn’t have to unravel to the point of having to call a crisis line, or the police from inside a Target while wielding a knife? 

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we took better care of one another, and didn’t turn away or distance ourselves from people in need, if we made more effort to extend kindness to others around us, friends, family, and strangers? 

    Perhaps that meal you buy for a homeless person, the kind words given to a passing stranger, the reaching out to help lift a broken spirit, or to mend a broken relationship, etc., could just save their life.

    WSB, would be interesting to hear more about what issues this person is dealing with, and also how they are doing now. Hope they are receiving good help and with some compassionate care.

  • Mariem January 31, 2021 (10:46 pm)

    All good points @ be kind. 

Sorry, comment time is over.