READER REPORT: Suspicious sighting at Hiawatha

E sent this after family and friends urged her to tell others:

This morning at about 5 am, I was running at Hiawatha track. I had a fairly unnerving encounter around 5:15 am. I was doing my warm-up run, and suddenly noticed a guy watching me, hanging out by the portapotty, hadn’t been there on my previous laps. When he saw me notice him, he pretended to be reading a sign, but then went back to watching me and took something out of his backpack. I started switching directions and he kept standing there, doing odd things, but watching me. There was something not right about it. Then, luckily, I was getting near him but trying to stay clear and he looked intentional about approaching me. As if by magic the wonderful group of guys who normally do boot-camp class showed up. They seemed like they might have noticed something was off too, as they stopped and stared at him, and he looked between us and kind of shuffled off. He then moved to some other bushes at the end of the track and watched for a bit longer before finally disappearing.

I don’t want to be an alarmist, but something was very off about it. Just wanted to warn other early Hiawatha frequenters to be on the lookout. Like I said, nothing concrete, but I’d feel terrible not saying and finding out something happened and I could have warned others.

25 Replies to "READER REPORT: Suspicious sighting at Hiawatha"

  • AlkiBean May 24, 2022 (6:32 pm)

    Thank you so much for speaking up and alerting the community!

  • Lucy May 24, 2022 (6:34 pm)

    Scary! I hope you carry pepper spray and know how to use it.  I hope you have a self defense plan.  Take care!  And take responsibility for your own safety.  

  • Kalo May 24, 2022 (7:19 pm)

     Around 1970, I was attacked while walking that track on my way to school. Fortunately, I had been taught basic self defense in my PE class by a great teacher, Mrs. Ritzhaupt. Saved me from what could have been a life altering situation. Taking a self defense course can bring peace of mind. Knowledge is power!

  • Thomas Wood May 24, 2022 (7:22 pm)

    Your not a alarmist your spider senses were right on. I would adivse if your going to be out that early personal protection is a must!

  • HiawathaNeighbor May 24, 2022 (8:07 pm)

    No, Lucy, I don’t carry pepper spray when I run. I don’t carry anything. What I do is pay huge property tax hoping that it funds social services and law enforcement to prevent these kinds of situations. Between austerity and defunding the police, we have neither. But arming oneself is not the answer, either (did you read the news today?)

    • Neighbor May 24, 2022 (9:56 pm)

      No matter how much taxes you pay or police there are these instances will take place.

      • Jennen May 24, 2022 (10:39 pm)

        Also I’d suggest a birdie or some such device. While not arming oneself it’s a good alarm system that could scare away an attacker. Under 30$ on Amazon 

        • H May 26, 2022 (6:16 am)

          Thanks for mentioning the birdie, I just ordered a few for my family.

    • Ly May 24, 2022 (10:57 pm)

      Heh. Good luck with that. Pay as much taxes as you want, these things can happen . Plus always small amount of delay with cops arriving on the scene to help. But please continue with the snarkiness. Add a lot to this conversation.

    • rme May 25, 2022 (5:04 am)

      Are you actually comparing pepper spray to guns? Come on. 

  • Mj May 24, 2022 (10:43 pm)

    A good sized dog makes a nice companion and provides protection to it’s owner.

  • Marcus May 25, 2022 (5:07 am)

    Scary, might I suggest partnering for your morning run.  Really I remember when there were enough police to patrol areas.  As a kid I saw police cars driving through parks once in a while.  Just the sight of police vehicles deters so much odd behavior.  You have a right to feel save.  

  • wssz May 25, 2022 (5:07 am)

    ALWAYS trust your gut. No exceptions. Don’t second guess yourself. Your instincts were on red alert. Listen to them. I highly recommend “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker —  The reviews are excellent.

    It’s essential reading for women especially, but teens and men would benefit from it too. It’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read, and just as relevant today as when it was written.  

    I’m glad that group came along when they did. And I’m glad you’re okay.

  • KWest Seattle May 25, 2022 (6:06 am)

    E, I’m so sorry you had this experience and am grateful you stayed safe. As a woman, it is hard to move around in this world without feeling very vulnerable at times. I’m glad you put people on alert. 

  • Al Semple May 25, 2022 (6:43 am)

    I teach a women’s self-defense class also if you’re out and about bring your phone like everybody does take a picture of this guy so that whole Community knows what he looks like it will give you peace of mind to take a self-defense class will you take my class or somebody else’s just do it and go with your gut feeling if you feel something is wrong get out of the situation if you want to get in touch with me about a class that we have coming up for women’s self-defense course it’s not always about just beating somebody up it’s legal stuff we go over stuff you need to know facts the whole ball of wax thank you very much

  • aa May 25, 2022 (7:02 am)

    I think we all do what we can to stay safe, there is no need to judge if this persons choices were good enough.  Everyday is filled with choices that weigh risk vs reward and it seems that this world we live in has potential harm at every turn.  Personally, I think the age old idea of a ‘safe neighborhood’ is based on racist thoughts of one group of people being safer than another and in reality there is no such thing as a place to live that is safe from crime these days.   Years ago I heard a safety person  say, “ don’t tell your kids to be wary of strangers, tell them to be wary of strange-ness”.   That makes sense to me.

  • Sherman Olsen May 25, 2022 (10:26 am)

    I sometimes run with a backpack, and just discovered it has a tiny plastic whistle built into it. I’m not going to run with a weapon, but a whistle I think is a practical and useful precaution.

  • WSrunner May 25, 2022 (10:58 am)

    Hi all – Appreciate those who left kind messages about my safety. I am also grateful it had a good ending. While likely well intentioned, many, particularly women, don’t feel like sharing events things like this for fear of receiving unsolicited advice that resembles, for better or worse, victim blaming.I wrote this into West Seattle Blog not for advice, but to alert fellow morning runners, walkers, dog enthusiasts, etc. who may find themselves at Hiawatha that this occurred, to just be aware. I usually run with partners, I’ve taken self defense, I carry a watch that has a button for a security alarm, often carry pepper spray, etc. but these things should not matter when you respond to a story like this. I had a plan for what to do if he actually confronted me, as it appears he was moving to do, and am grateful that I didn’t have to use those often ineffective methods. Nor is it anyone’s business, or should be your reaction to people’s posts about events like this. I shared the details needed for this story’s relevance to the community, not my personal approach and strategy to safety. It took a lot for me to share this, very much fearing exactly many of the reactions I saw in this post. I shared this for protecting the community, and ended up regretting I had (and very much wishing I hadn’t read the comments). There, I can say I should have known better. What wasn’t shared was my thanks to the fellows who showed up. While I take “responsibility” for my own safety, my gratitude for their kindness and smiles as I got to have a great workout, knowing they were present and nearby, knows no bounds. 

    • KM WS May 25, 2022 (12:39 pm)

      Thank you, WSRUNNER. I, as a woman, appreciate the heads up.

    • anonyme May 25, 2022 (1:27 pm)

      WSRunner, you did everything right as far as I’m concerned, and I applaud you for not allowing creepy dudes to dictate how, when, or where you live your life.  Take any action you find appropriate to defend yourself.  It’s unfortunate that women worldwide have to feel unsafe anywhere and everywhere, including in their own homes, but we cannot allow fear to define us. 

    • TM May 25, 2022 (3:32 pm)

      Great message. You were successful in your goal- you got the warning out, and have helped the community with your heads-up. The WS blog is such a useful resource for things like this. Agreed you weren’t soliciting advice or trying to stir up a debate. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Lori May 26, 2022 (8:53 pm)

      Thank you for braving sharing this to give all us runners a heads up! We appreciate you. 

  • Carson May 25, 2022 (12:58 pm)

    I am also an early morning runner, often at Hiawatha. The past 6-8 months I have had run ins/incidents with a belligerent middle age white guy. Clearly mental health issues, all I do is run and when I pass him, he yells at me. I suspect this guy lives close by, maybe the ravine maybe the park. For the most part I see the same dog walkers, runners, walkers and yes, the work out guys.  I try and say good morning to all the runners I see and most of the regulars, partly to acknowledge the effort to get up that early but also to let people know I have their back either from injury or incident. Say hello if you see me, I always way the same outfit, a bright neon yellow shirt and purple UW shorts. My wife said the guy was yelling at me that my clothes don’t match…..

  • AJ May 25, 2022 (1:56 pm)

    SeattlePD William1@SeattlePDW1·May 23Beat: W1, DISTURBANCE, MISCELLANEOUS/OTHER at 26XX BLOCK OF CALIFORNIA AV SW reported on 5/23/2022 10:00 AM, Call# 22000129845
    A homeless man pulled a bat out of his shopping cart & was trying to hit people. He has been known to camp in
    Hiawatha & Totem Pole park.

  • Admiral7 May 27, 2022 (11:01 am)

    Carson – thx for the laugh!And E – good on you, thank you, and glad you’re safe.

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