Outreach Workers, Police Called to Shuttered Newsroom

Outreach workers, fire department crews and Seattle police ventured into the dark, graffiti-covered hallways of the former Seattle Times headquarters Tuesday morning after the city ordered the property’s current owners to secure the shuttered building.

The block-long office building at 1120 John Street has been vacant since the Seattle Times sold the property and relocated its offices down the street. Since the sale, police have responded to the property to investigate reports of damage and copper pipe theft and received reports of numerous people coming and going from the building. On September 18th, a Seattle Fire Department crew responded to an alarm at the property and found a damaged gas line and dozens of people living inside the building.

In August, the Seattle Department of Planning and Development notified the property’s owners that the building was in violation of the city’s “Vacant Building Standards,” and informed them they could face fines up to $1,000 a day if it was left unsecured. After the property owners agreed to secure the building, the city made plans to ensure no one was sealed inside.

Seattle police accompanied two outreach workers into the building Tuesday as they contacted and offered services to approximately 20 people believed to be living on the property. Police did not arrest anyone in the building for trespassing, but did take three people into custody on unrelated felony warrants.

During the search of the building, officers found someone had booby-trapped a room with an eight-foot pipe tied to a rope. The trap was apparently designed to swing down when a door was opened, but did not function. Officers removed the trap without incurring any injury.

Police could not immediately determine whether the booby trap or graffiti found on the property was left by the current unauthorized residents or the building’s former tenants.