An Edmonds man said Saturday he is unlikely to bring his children back to Sunset Avenue after a suspect made racial slurs against the family and threatened to kill them as they walked along the scenic Edmonds waterfront earlier this month.
“I’m not that comfortable to go there with my kids,” said Dembo Sanneh, who had taken his two young daughters — ages 2 and 3 — and his niece and nephew — ages 3 and 7 — out for a walk along the Sunset Avenue trail when the incident occurred Aug. 20.
Sanneh said that at about 7:10 p.m. that day, the family was approached from behind by a white man driving a 1996 maroon Toyota Camry. The man began yelling at them and shaking his hand. “He called us niggers and asked what we were doing walking on the trail,” Sanneh said. “He said he did not want to see any black people on the waterfront. He said he had a gun and was going to come and kill me and my kids if we didn’t leave.”
The driver, described as about 40 years old and “chubby,” with reddish hair and a clean-shaven round face, also accused the family of carrying the Ebola virus, AIDS and HIV, Sanneh said. The suspect drove around the block three times, stopping each time to threaten the family and calling them names, Sanneh added.
Sanneh, who has lived in Edmonds for about six years, said he didn’t get the car’s license plate. “I was too angry and I wasn’t using my brain, which I regret,” he said. He added that he did notice that the car was missing the cap on its gas tank.
However, a witness who observed the incident was able to provide a license plate number, which police determined belonged to a car that exactly matched the make and model described by the victim (a ’96 Toyota Camry). But a follow-up investigation by police revealed that those plates were reported to the Everett Police Department as being stolen off that car in February 2014.
According to Edmonds police, the man’s alleged actions violate the state’s malicious harassment law, which states it is a Class C felony — punishable by up to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine — to make threats or cause personal injury or property damage based on a victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical or sensory handicap.
Sanneh, who is originally from Gambia and has lived in the U.S. for 15 years, said he has been subjected to racial slurs in the past, but he was particularly concerned that the young children in his care had also been targeted. While his 2-year-old daughter was unaware of what was happening, the older children “were scared,” said Sanneh, who works as an attendant counselor manager for the Department of Social and Health Services in Lake City. “My 3-year-old asked me why the man was calling us names.”
Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling described the incident as “clearly not acceptable,” noting that “Edmonds residents find this type of racism repugnant Our city has worked hard to be inclusive and are building wonderful ethnic diversity in our community.”
If anyone sees a maroon 1996 Camry with the license plate AMK7353, they are advised to call 911, said Edmonds police Sgt. Mark Marsh. “The vehicle and suspect information was sent out to numerous regional law enforcement agencies covering four counties, in an effort to locate the suspect,” Marsh added.