OLYMPIA — Scott Yoos, the disabled man whose arrest this month brought about 100 protesters to City Hall last week, did not try to flee police officers as they have claimed, he said in an email to The Olympian.
“I would like to point out that this is sheer balderdash,” he wrote. Yoos can hear but cannot speak and communicates by sign language or writing.
Yoos, 45, was arrested late June 1 at Twister Donuts, 2302 Fourth Ave. E., and charged with criminal trespass and obstructing justice. He pleaded not guilty last Wednesday and is scheduled to return to court Aug. 1.
Yoos maintains that he did nothing wrong and that he was arrested after he threw away some paper towels in a trash bin. Police maintain that Yoos was arrested after he was uncooperative and attempted to flee at least three times on his bicycle.
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In an email sent to The Olympian on Saturday evening, Yoos disputes that and implies that he was targeted because the police know him to be a local activist.
“All four of the heroic policemen who were present at the arrest scene recognized me & admitted to knowing me, commenting that: ‘He’s at all the protests.’ Several of the policemen remembered me as one of those annoying photographers, who’ve helped to chronicle the many abuses of power which have occurred at the hands of the police during our peaceful, nonviolent actions,” he wrote.
He said one of the officers at his arrest, Sgt. Paul Johnson, “remembered me with my dearly-departed dog, ‘Tova’, who was my constant companion for nearly 14 years. Particularly disturbing to me was the fact that not only did Sgt. Johnson recall my late canine comrade, but he also knew my former address in west Olympia, (right off the top of his head!)”
Yoos said he lived with another activist, Patty Imani, who “has also repeatedly been a victim of civil liberties abuses by the police.”
He said it was “creepy” that police knew his personal information.
“These guys all know me. I had done nothing wrong. Did they really think that I was going to force myself to ‘go underground’ and live like a fugitive, over a small sack of damp & soiled paper towels?”
In an interview, Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts responded to Yoos’ remarks.
“As the chief, what I would say is we don’t have a policy or practice of going after anybody,” he said. “We investigate crimes and criminal activity or potential criminal activity.”
Yoos also defended his use of sign language during one of the occasions an officer tried to separate him from his bicycle. According to officer Randy Wilson’s police report, Yoos signed “very emphatically, slapping his hands together hard and making some sort of gesture under his chin” causing Wilson to believe “he was to a point where I believed he could become assaultive.”
Yoos wrote, “I would like very much to point out that sign language is a very expressive mode of communication, and that extremely-traumatic & emotional experiences (such as, say, being pinned to the ground, handcuffed, and having one’s face pressed into the pavement by a chuckling cop) these vivid incidents rightfully call for more- impassioned signing! I believe that it is WRONG for the Olympia Police Department to accuse me of aggressive action simply for raising my ‘voice,’ (by signing ‘emphatically,’ in my futile effort to be understood.)”
Yoos’ case broke into the public eye last Tuesday, when about 100 people came to an Olympia City Council meeting to protest his treatment as police brutality.
He wrote to a reporter after the meeting Tuesday, offering to email “a summary of my misadventure” but that he has been advised by attorneys not to discuss the details of the case. He did not immediately reply to an email Wednesday offering him a chance to comment on the police incident report detailing his arrest, which was released Wednesday.
But he said he decided to go against legal advice to “temper and balance” the police report and remarks by Roberts defending the way officers handled the case, he wrote in his email Saturday.
Yoos wrote that he favors equipping police cars with video cameras, which he said would have vindicated him. Roberts has said he also supports equipping cars with the cameras, which he estimates as costing $50,000.
Yoos added that “there are a kajillion other false accusations & other details which still need to be vented and argued, but I can save those for the trial.”
Roberts offered to sit down and discuss the situation with Yoos. “I really don’t think that going back and forth is the appropriate way to address this issue,” he said.
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869