Bellevue detective under review for alleged inaction on hate crime

A homeless white man has since been charged with yelling racist slurs.

A Bellevue detective is under internal review upon facing recent allegations that he ignored a hate crime in January.

Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett confirmed Detective Jim Lindquist is under investigation for the claim.

Lindquist is alleged to have let a hate crime slip by as he only stood and watched as Robert Panera, a 53-year-old white, homeless man, yelled racist profanities at several black people, who were waiting for the bus one January day. Panera, now facing one charge of malicious harassment for the incident, is also alleged to have lunged at a black man as he hid behind Lindquist.

According to King County Superior Court charging documents, police were first dispatched to the Downtown Bellevue Transit Center at 2:31 p.m. on Jan. 23. Panera had called police to report he and others were involved in a disturbance.

Two officers arrived and contacted Lindquist, who was off-duty flagging at an intersection at the time. He identified the people involved, pointing out one black man, but he had already boarded a bus.

Those officers filed a police report but at the time, were not able to develop probable cause for a crime.

Later that day, charging documents state the black man, who had boarded a bus as police arrived, called the police station upset.

The man was “very angry” but finally told a police captain what happened.

The man was waiting for a bus when he saw Panera and an older black man get into a “disturbance.” The man took out his phone to record the situation and then saw Panera call 911, claiming he was being attacked.

But that wasn’t true, he said.

“Panera turned his attention to [the man recording] and began to yell at him,” charging documents state. “[The man] attempted to walk away from Panera but Panera followed him around the transit center.”

Panera threatened to “f***” the man up and called him the N-word several times, the documents continue.

The black man walked to the east side of the transit center and approached Lindquist, asking for help.

As Panera continued to taunt the man and others with racist epithets, the man apparently tried to hide behind Lindquist as Panera lunged at him.

According to the victim, Lindquist didn’t contact or detain Panera. When the victim left on the bus, he said he did so because he felt unsafe.

The man shared four videos with the police captain. Police also obtained the 911 recording, dispatch records, a traffic camera footage of the incident and two witness statements corroborating the incident.

Washington state law defines malicious harassment as an injury, damage or threat to someone because of “his or her perception of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicap.”

Mylett said officers in uniform are duty-bound to protect people, their property and to serve the public.

“If the officer is found to have engaged in misconduct, I will use the disciplinary process to modify and correct his behavior,” Mylett said, noting the allegations they have are unsubstantiated at this time. “The disciplinary process is very wide, I have a lot of options to modify and correct behavior.”

Mylett said if an employee is found to have engaged in misconduct, he will look at the intent behind the action or inaction first.

“If the intent is to harm somebody or to defraud, integrity issues, I’ll take that into consideration,” he said. “If there’s no such intent and it was by mistake or an accident, I’ll also take that into consideration as well.”

If Lindquist, who has been with the department for 30-plus years, is found to have done nothing wrong, Mylett said he will be exonerated. The chief estimates he’ll have the internal investigation case on his desk by the end of the month.

“Over the last three years, we’ve been in the business of building bridges into minority communities, into all communities, in Bellevue whose foundation is built on trust,” Mylett said. “We as the police department guard that very closely because we know it takes a long time to establish and build trust and all it takes is one incident to lose it or, at minimum, to set you back, so what is being alleged is inconsistent with the work we’ve been doing over the last several years.”

Mylett also pointed out that the police department did investigate Panera’s alleged crime, which was forwarded to King County prosecutors, who charged him March 23.

There is currently a $25,000 warrant for Panera’s arrest.