Seattle's CHOP has seen shootings, vandalism, other crimes as officials vow to dismantle it

Seattle authorities were making preparations Tuesday to retake the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone, or CHOP, after several shootings and a number of other crimes in what protesters have declared a “cop-free zone.”

Demonstrators moved in and occupied the neighborhood on June 8 after police pulled out of their East Precinct building following more than a week of protests over the death of George Floyd, some of which grew violent.

Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, prompting protests against police brutality and racism. Some cities saw violence, rioting and looting -- including Seattle in its Capitol Hill neighborhood.

A person takes a photo of the Seattle Police East Precinct building, June 22, inside what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in Seattle. For the second time in less than 48 hours, there was a shooting near the "CHOP" area that has been occupied by protesters after Seattle Police pulled back from several blocks of the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood near the Police Department's East Precinct building. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A person takes a photo of the Seattle Police East Precinct building, June 22, inside what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in Seattle. For the second time in less than 48 hours, there was a shooting near the "CHOP" area that has been occupied by protesters after Seattle Police pulled back from several blocks of the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood near the Police Department's East Precinct building. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A 25-year-old Tacoma woman allegedly torched five unmarked police vehicles nearby on May 30. On June 6, demonstrators allegedly hurled bottles, rocks and “explosives” at police. A man allegedly drove into a crowd of protesters on June 7 and shot someone just a block away from the police station.

During more than a week of protests, police used pepper spray, tear gas and flash-bangs against protesters in the area, prompting thousands of complaints about the police response, according to KUOW. City authorities banned police from using tear gas on protesters in response. Then they chose to abandon the East Precinct.

When police pulled out, protesters filled the void, occupying the CHOP, which they’d initially dubbed the CHAZ, or Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, declaring it a “cop-free zone.”

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best has denied that the CHOP is actually a “cop-free zone,” but protesters have reportedly blocked police from responding to crimes there and the chief has said that 911 response times to reports of burglaries, rapes and other crimes have tripled in the vicinity.

Best has said that she was not the one to make the decision to abandon the precinct building, which is where she began her career with the Seattle Police Department.

SEATTLE POLICE CHIEF: 'LEAVING THE PRECINCT WAS NOT MY DECISION'

Although local reports say demonstrators have mostly been peaceful, there have been numerous crimes ranging from homicide to vandalism.

Seattle police arrested a man on Thursday after he allegedly lured a deaf woman into a tent within the CHOP and sexually assaulted her, journalist Any Ngo wrote in the New York Post. In the following days, police received 911 calls for at least three shootings.

Here’s a look at some of the incidents:

SHOOTINGS

Seattle Police said that they were investigating a fatal shooting Saturday morning that happened at 10th Avenue and East Pine Street. They said protesters blocked responding officers from reaching the scene and that private vehicles had rushed two victims the hospital with life-threatening injuries. One of them, a 19-year-old man, died.

People walk amidst barricades in what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in Seattle June 22. For the second time in less than 48 hours, there was a shooting near the "CHOP" area that has been occupied by protesters after Seattle Police pulled back from several blocks of the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood near the Police Department's East Precinct building. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

People walk amidst barricades in what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in Seattle June 22. For the second time in less than 48 hours, there was a shooting near the "CHOP" area that has been occupied by protesters after Seattle Police pulled back from several blocks of the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood near the Police Department's East Precinct building. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A 17-year-old male was also shot in Cal Anderson Park, which is just a couple of blocks from the shuttered East Precinct building, on Sunday evening. Police set up a staging area outside the CHOP, but the victim was taken to a hospital in a private vehicle, authorities said. He suffered a gunshot wound to the arm and declined to speak with detectives. He has since been released from the hospital.

Police also said they received 911 calls early Monday morning about a man in his 30s who had been shot near 11th Avenue and East Denny Way. Officers and medics met him outside the CHOP, where investigators said he refused to provide any information about the shooting and would not give a description of the suspect. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center with a gunshot wound in his calf.

THEFT AND VANDALISM

After police pulled out of the CHOP, protesters allegedly broke into and vandalized some storefronts. Local residents and business owners have tried to raise the alarm about fears for their safety and their property.

SEATTLE PROTESTERS DECLARE 'COP FREE ZONE' AFTER POLICE LEAVE PRECINCT

“We are just sitting ducks all day,” Matthew Ploszaj told Seattle-based KIRO 7 last week. “Now every criminal in the city knows they can come into this area, and they can do anything they want, as long as it isn’t life-threatening. And the police won’t come in to do anything about it.”

Ploszaj said he called 911 after witnessing a burglar break into his courtyard and steal a bike, the outlet reported. Then he said the dispatcher told him there was “nothing we can do” unless someone’s life is in danger.

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John McDermott, who co-owns an auto shop near the edge of the occupied zone, told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer on Thursday that a CHOP protester broke into his business, burglarized it and started a fire. He said his son helped him detain the suspect as he repeatedly called 911 -- but authorities never came. A group of protesters outside demanded the suspect be released, and after the father and son let him out, someone in the crowd allegedly punched him in the face, police said.

The 21-year-old suspect has since been arrested and charged in connection with the auto shop break-in, as well as other cases.

Seattle police arrested a suspected arsonist last week whom they say lit a fire outside the East Precinct building around 3 a.m. on June 12. Surveillance video of the incident shows a man walk over to a wall with a red container, dump something out and then return a few minutes later to light it on fire -- as bystanders can be heard calling out for water and are seen rushing to put out the flames.

And the Seattle City Attorney's office announced Wednesday that misdemeanor charges against protesters arrested during weeks of demonstrations that have sometimes devolved into confrontations with police and vandalism might not be prosecuted or could be referred to community-based programs in lieu of jail time.

The Seattle Times reported that 37 misdemeanor cases have been referred to Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes’ office for a range of offenses, including resisting arrest, theft, criminal trespass, obstructing police and minor assaults. Half were for obstruction and failure to disperse, spokesman Dan Nolte told the newspaper.

OTHER CONFRONTATIONS

Video posted to Twitter by Town Hall journalist Julio Rosas shows protesters arguing among themselves in Seattle on June 11 as a few police officers re-entered the CHOP on the way to the boarded-up, abandoned East Precinct building. At one point, the camera pans toward protesters trading profanities, apparently angry that someone had “let” the police into the area.

On Thursday, a video game designer identified as Shawn Whiting said he was threatened and briefly “detained” by a masked man who didn’t want him streaming video from the park.

Some residents hired a private security company to protect their homes and businesses.

In an interview Tuesday on "America's Newsroom" with host Ed Henry, Homeland Patrol Division Security owner Steve Pansini said that residents hired his company because they were scared for their livelihoods and their safety.

Authorities said they aim to restore order soon.

RESIDENTS NEAR SEATTLE'S CHOP ASK WHAT TOOK CITY SO LONG TO MOVE TO BREAK UP PROTEST

On Monday, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that the city would move to dismantle the CHOP. In a previous interview, she described the zone as a "block party."

Fox News’ Julia Musto and Louis Casiano contributed to this report.