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Man Arrested for Stealing Excavator Released and Back Chopping Trees

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Seattle resident Brian Hartman thought that police would remove Steve Irwin from Dr. Jose Rizal Park on Thursday afternoon.

Instead, officers left without the homeless man because he refused to come out of his tent.

Police say more charges will be presented against him at his next court hearing. Irwin was arrested in October for allegedly stealing an excavator and trashing the park’s wooded area.

“Cops can’t go and take down a homeless dwelling, because he’s inside and they can’t go inside,” Hartman explains.

 After posting bail, he moved back to the same spot and was accused of chopping down more trees, destroying vegetation, and stealing electricity from a nearby power box.

“I’m paying for that through taxes, and I pay a lot in taxes,” Hartman tells me.

He knows that the Seattle Police Department is down hundreds of officers but had no idea that it would be this difficult to remove a repeat offender.

“He should at least be in jail for a year, I think,” says Hartman.

Meanwhile, neighbors are slamming city leaders for allowing Irwin to return and set up an even bigger camp in the park. One resident tells me that “he doesn’t make us feel safe.”

When I ask Irwin in the park if he’s surprised that the police didn’t arrest him, he responds, “I kinda am.” “The only tree that got cut was that one,” Irwin points, “and that was like a week ago….I made it look better than it was before.”

The parks department referred me to the Mayor’s Office for an answer on why the continued behavior was being allowed, but no response was given.

Andrea Suarez, director of outreach group We Heart Seattle, is trying to transition Irwin out of the park. “If you get back to work,” she tells him, “I think that will help lessen your charges.” “Our model is daily, intensive outreach,” Suarez tells me. She says Irwin is “absolutely” worth investing all of these resources in.

After multiple attempts in the past few weeks to offer housing, a job, and support, Irwin is still refusing to leave. He says the park is his home and that he feels entitled to stay, saying “any man has the right to cover his head.”

Jonathan Choe

Journalist and Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth and Poverty
Jonathan Choe is a journalist and Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute's Center on Wealth and Poverty, covering homelessness issues for its Fix Homelessness initiative. Prior to joining Discovery, Choe spent several years as one of the lead reporters at KOMO-TV, consistently the top rated television station in Seattle. His in depth stories on crime and deep dive investigations into the homeless crisis led to measurable results in the community, including changes in public policy. Choe has more than two decades of experience in television news behind the scenes and in front of the camera for ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, and Tribune. He has also been nominated and honored with multiple industry awards including an Emmy. Choe spent several years teaching classes on emerging media and entrepreneurship to under privileged youth in inner city Chicago. As an independent journalist, Choe also contributes regularly to the Mill Creek View and Lynnwood Times and has reported on exclusive stories in the past year for Daily Wire and The Postmillennial.