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UPDATE | Redmond store owner and son 'horrified' after receiving KKK-type items
On the evening of Jan. 20, Shane Coakley and his mother Leona Coakley-Spring were working in her consignment store, From Rags to Riches, at 16648 Redmond Way in downtown.
At around 5:45 p.m., a man in his mid-20s entered, telling Coakley he had a couple dresses to sell. Coakley told the other man that they were not taking dresses at the moment but the man insisted Coakley-Spring take a look.
“He said that she wants to see these: ‘Trust me. She really wants to see these dresses,’” Coakley said.
It wasn’t until after Coakley-Spring purchased the dresses from the man and he had exited the store that the two realized he had left behind more than just two formal dresses.
In a separate bag, they also found a white robe, white hood with eye holes and a loose rope — all of which appeared to be items similar to those worn by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
Coakley-Spring initially thought the garment was a choir robe, but Coakley said he knew what the items were and explained them to his mother.
“I’ve never heard her cry like that,” he said, describing the incident as devastating. “I wish it was just me here and not my mother. It would have been easier. I would have never told her.”
Neither Coakley nor his mother, who are black, could believe something like this could happen in this community.
“I was horrified,” said Coakley-Spring about her reaction. “It was unreal.”
The man who left the items behind was white, about 5-feet-10-inches tall, with brown hair and an athletic/stocky build. Coakley said at the time, he was wearing dark jeans, a black zip-up jacket and military boots. He also provided police with a description for a sketch of the suspect.
Police are currently attempting to identify the harassment suspect, depicted in the sketch. Becky Range, public information officer for the Redmond Police Department (RPD), said they want to know what the suspect’s intent was by leaving the garments at Coakley-Spring’s store.
“We are continuing to follow up on a few leads but have not yet identified the man who came into the store,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “We continue to coordinate with the King County Prosecutor for guidance on the case, which is being investigated for possible malicious harassment RCW 9A.36.080 charges.”
If anyone has information that may help with this investigation or believe they know the identity of this man, contact Det. Natalie D’Amico at (425) 556-2669 or email@example.com.
A THOROUGH INVESTIGATION
After they discovered the garments, Coakley immediately called the police to report the incident. He said they came right away and in full force.
Range said the department is taking this incident very seriously and immediately began a thorough investigation.
After taking Coakley’s report, Range said police collected the garments and crime analysts are working to determine whether the items were symbolic or garments that have actually been worn.
She did say that the robe had two patches on the back that resemble the “Blood Drop” symbol associated with the KKK.
Coakley said those patches led detectives to return to the store the morning of Jan. 21 to see if there was any video surveillance footage they could check. There wasn’t. Detectives also wanted to follow up with him. They told him the garments were not just sheets and that the patches were sewn onto the robe well.
“Those patches mean something,” he said about what detectives told him.
Coakley added that they told him, “‘We want to really try to catch this guy.’”
He said this echoed the reaction of the police sergeant who responded to the call.
Range called the incident “very unusual” for Redmond and said they are not aware of any KKK-type groups in the area. Because of this unfamiliarity, she said RPD has reached out to other law enforcement agencies for guidance in identifying the type of garments they collected as well as how to recognize such groups. Range said they also reached out to make other agencies aware of what RPD is investigating in case other jurisdictions have experienced similar incidents. In addition, Redmond police released the sketch of the suspect to other agencies.
“We are not aware of other incidents, but as a precaution, we have increased patrols in the area and are engaging closely with store employees,” she said.
Coakley and his mother agreed with Range about how rare an incident like this is in Redmond.
“This community doesn’t feel that way, you know? I’ve been in this community a long time. They don’t feel this way,” Coakley said. “I have so many white friends and family that love me and I love them. They don’t feel this way.”
He added that there are other issues to focus on rather than the color of people’s skin, such as school levies not passing and paying for the new State Route 520 bridge.
“This isn’t the South,” he said. “For this to happen here, it’s crazy.”
Coakley-Spring agreed, saying the only “crime” she has committed was being black.
“Which is dumb because I can’t do anything about it,” she said. “(Worrying about the color of someone’s skin is) such a waste of time.”
Coakley-Spring said she won’t allow this incident color how she views white people. She said she knows not all white people are like the suspect, but she admits the incident has made it difficult to know who to trust. She said nothing about the man or the conversation they had indicated that he would do what he did.
“He was so normal,” she said.
This experience won’t change how Coakley-Spring treats others but she admits that while this incident in Redmond was a singular experience, she has been pretty shaken up.
Following the incident, she went out of town, initially saying she did not know if she would be able to return to the store. In the days following the incident, she was not able to sleep and considered closing the store — something her son doesn’t want to see happen.
“I’m not going let her do that,” he said. “You can’t live in fear.”
Despite her initial thoughts, Coakley-Spring returned to her store earlier this week.
“Right now, I’m OK,” she said Wednesday evening about how she has been doing since the incident.
Coakley is not the only one to think they should not give in to the fear the incident has caused.
On Jan. 22, the day after initial news of the incident was reported on various local media outlets, members of the community stopped by From Rags to Riches to show their support for Coakley-Spring, her family and their business.
Range said there was a line outside the door of well-wishers in the morning.
Linda Tappan, who works in Redmond, stopped by to drop off flowers to “express (her) sorrow and shame that somebody would do this.”
“How could this happen? I’m just in shock that it would happen here in Redmond,” she said. “It’s outrageous and it’s a hate crime and it can’t happen.”
Tappan said she did not know about the store prior to the incident, but now plans to do business there.
“It’s been overwhelming,” Coakley said about the community response.
Margie Cofano of Sammamish also felt compelled to come out and show her support.
She said she and her husband — who each have their own companies — learned of the incident on the news.
“To run your own company is a hard thing, and to have something like that happen in a place like this, in this day and age it just shouldn’t happen,” Cofano said. “They work so hard and it just broke our hearts. We wanted to show them that people here really care and are good people. We want to bring them good business and make their business successful. It’s horrible. I think this is going to touch a lot of people.”
Cofano said she and her husband wanted to do something nice for Coakley-Spring and her son, so they gave Coakley a $15 Starbucks card as a “token of (their) care.”
“I hope more people come and show their appreciation and reach out a hand to say, ‘We’re a community and we look out for each other’” Cofano said. “I think it will bring the community closer.”
In addition, people dropped off flowers, and someone even hung a red decorative heart emblazoned with the word “Love” outside the store’s front door.
Coakley-Spring and Coakley have also received support from their neighbors.
Chris Curtiss, the general manager for Frankie’s Pizza and Pasta, said Coakley-Spring came by their restaurant the evening of the incident to inform them of what happened. Following his shock that something like that could happen in Redmond, Curtiss said he and his father (the restaurant’s namesake) have stopped by the store to let Coakley-Spring know that they will help keep an eye out for any suspicious activity and said she can contact them if she finds herself in a scary situation.
“They’re really nice people,” Curtiss said, adding that Coakley-Spring and Coakley have been good neighbors, as well.
A manager from another business in the complex also shared Curtiss’s shock, adding that he also felt disgust and disappointment that this would happen. But seeing how much support Coakley-Spring has been receiving from the community has been great.
“That was really awesome,” he said.
For Coakley-Spring, all of the support has been overwhelming. Upon hearing how people lined up outside her store last week, she was overcome with emotion and began to cry as she was not expecting this kind of support. Since the incident, she has also received cards and notes of support, singling out a particularly “tear-jerking” card she received from local students.
People from around the world have also reached out to From Rags to Riches in support. Coakley-Spring said she has received phone calls, texts and emails from her home country of the Bahamas as well as France and England.
“That’s so nice,” she said about all of the support. “They really care.”
Redmond Reporter editor Andy Nystrom contributed to this report.