Jim Lawless (left) and Sherman Pruitt are the two candidates for police chief. (City of Edmonds)

Jim Lawless (left) and Sherman Pruitt are the two candidates for police chief. (City of Edmonds)

Edmonds forum hijacked with racist and lewd disruption

Sherman Pruitt, a police chief candidate and person of color, was interrupted three times.

EDMONDS — An online public forum for the city’s two police chief candidates was hijacked three times Monday night with inappropriate language, as well as racist and lewd images.

Sherman Pruitt, a person of color in the running to take over the city’s police department, was taking questions when someone interrupted. Because the city has not released the meeting audio, it’s not clear exactly what was said. Next, someone displayed racist and pornographic images, according to people who watched the meeting.

Pruitt and interim Chief Jim Lawless are in the running to fill the position.

“Last night a pathetic, hate-filled coward disrupted our Police Chief public forum on Zoom,” Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson said in a statement Tuesday. “I have directed our Police Department to investigate this as a crime and bring to light who this pathetic offender is. We are also reaching out to the FBI for cyber assistance to track down the perpetrators.”

“It’s a tragedy that such individuals who harbor hatred and vile thoughts sit alone in their basements at a computer with nothing better to do than disrupt public forums with lewd and racist messages and imagery,” he continued. “… Moving forward we are reviewing other meeting options for engaging the community that will have additional protections in place to ensure no one in our community feels unsafe or subjected to racist attacks when participating in these forums.”

The forum, like all city meetings, was recorded. However, the city removed the video from its archive and plans to re-upload it with the disruption removed.

“We’re not sharing it,” Patrick Doherty, the city’s community services director, said in an email. “It was hateful, lewd and offensive speech, writing and images.”

Monday night’s racist interruption was not the first to happen this year in Snohomish County.

Someone bombarded a June 4 Snohomish City Council meeting with racial slurs and death threats aimed toward people of color. It happened as people called in with concerns about racism in the city, after a May 31 gathering downtown where some people carried guns and displayed symbols related to white supremacy.

Snohomish City Administrator Steve Schuller does not believe anyone ever found out who was responsible. Nothing like that has happened again.

Since then, city meetings have been set up differently, and the meeting platform Zoom has added more security measures. City staff have also received further training on its use, Schuller said.

This also was not the first racist incident to occur this year in Edmonds.

During the summer, a 70-year-old man was charged with vandalizing “I Can’t Breathe” artwork at Civic Field. Around that same time, the city council’s student liaison lashed out against the Black Lives Matter movement during a meeting.

Before the disruption, Monday’s forum was intended to be an opportunity for residents to interact with the two finalists to become the next police chief.

Former Chief Al Compaanretired at the end of December 2019. The city has been searching for a replacement ever since, though Lawless has been filling in.

Compaan worked at the department for more than 40 years. He had served as chief since 2007, taking over after former Chief David Stern died suddenly from a brain aneurysm.

Lawless has worked for the Edmonds Police Department for 25 years, half that time as assistant chief.

He has a master’s degree in public administration, a masters certificate in law enforcement management, as well as a bachelor’s degree in sociology, psychology and criminal justice. He also is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, according to the city.

Pruitt is the police chief, director of public safety and emergency management services for the Sauk-Suiattle Police Department near Darrington. Before that, Pruitt was the interim chief for the Tulalip Police Department.

He has worked in law enforcement for 14 years and also has served in the Marine Corps and the Washington Air National Guard. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration and has received extensive training through leadership programs, the city said in a news release.

In response to Monday night’s incident, the Edmonds City Council postponed its Tuesday night meetings while staff look into new security measures.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Former president Donald Trump is seen with a bloody ear as he is assisted off the stage during a campaign rally in Butler, Pa., on Saturday. MUST CREDIT: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post
Pops, screams and then blood: On the scene at the Trump rally shooting

Isaac Arnsdorf, Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post BUTLER, Pa. - The… Continue reading

Biden, Democrats, Republicans denounce shooting at Trump rally

Reaction pours in from government leaders

A bloodied Donald Trump is surrounded by Secret Service agents at a campaign rally in Butler, Pa, on Saturday, July, 13, 2024. The former president was rushed off stage at rally after sounds like shots; the former president was escorted into his motorcade at his rally in Butler, Pa., a rural town about an hour north of Pittsburgh. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Trump rally shooting investigated as assassination attempt

President Joe Biden gave a brief televised statement, condemning the violence as “sick.”

Firefighters and EMTs with Sky Valley Fire tour Eagle Falls while on an observational trip on Wednesday, July 10, 2024, near Index, Washington. (Jordan Hansen / The Herald)
Beautiful but deadly: Drownings common at Eagle Falls, other local waters

Locals and firefighters are sounding the alarm as Eagle Falls and the Granite Falls Fish Ladder have claimed five lives this year.

A view of the south eastern area of the Lake Stevens that includes lakeshore and UGA that is a part of the city's annexation area on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020 in Lake Stevens, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lake Stevens fight to take over sewer district could end soon

The city and sewer district have been locked in a yearslong dispute. A judge could put an end to the stalemate this month.

Lynnwood appoints new council member after abrupt resignation

Derica Escamilla will take the seat vacated by Shirley Sutton in May, who claimed the city had a “total lack of leadership.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.