Man sentenced for racist threats to Edmonds animal control officer

Sean Wagner spewed slurs at an officer who seized his dogs. He was sentenced to jail for a hate crime.

Edmonds

EDMONDS — A man convicted of a hate crime was sentenced Wednesday to nine months in jail for screaming racist threats at an Edmonds animal control officer.

In October 2021, prosecutors charged Wagner, 36, with a felony for trying to intimidate the officer. In August of this year, after only a few hours of deliberating, jurors were at an impasse.

“Most of us are pretty set in to what we believe and we believe there is not enough evidence to change our minds,” jurors wrote to the court. “I don’t see that we can agree.”

After another trial in late October, a different jury convicted Wagner of a hate crime.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Millie Judge accepted deputy prosecutor Bob Hendrix’s recommendation of nine months, the high end of his sentencing range under state guidelines.

“The defendant’s behavior was aggressive, callous, and merits the high-end of the standard range,” Hendrix wrote. “He has not shown remorse.”

In April 2021, animal control officers were called to a motel off Highway 99, where Wagner was staying. Someone reported puppies barking inside a truck for two days.

The officers decided to take the four dogs to the PAWS shelter in Lynnwood because of the unsafe living conditions, according to court documents. One officer left a note for their owner.

Wagner went to the PAWS shelter with his three young children. Charging papers say he scared employees at the shelter.

The animal control officer went outside to get Wagner to leave and he was “immediately aggressive” with her, using racist slurs. Wagner told the officer to “go back to Africa,” court documents said. Wagner continued harassing employees, including chasing their cars in the parking lot and banging on doors and windows.

He walked toward the officer, clenching his fists and baring his teeth, prosecutors wrote. The officer said she would tase him. Wagner continued calling her slurs, while his kids cried. Wagner “towered over her” and showed the officer a picture on his phone of him with a Nazi flag.

“We are going to get you,” Wagner said.

Wagner was much larger than the officer, at 6-foot-4 and over 200 pounds, according to charging documents.

Under state law, the victim must have a “reasonable fear of harm” for an act to be considered a hate crime. Without a specific threat, words alone are not a hate crime.

Edmonds police arrived. An officer pointed out a swastika and Nazi eagle tattoos on Wagner’s chest.

Wagner reported he understood the police were just following orders.

“I follow orders too,” Wagner said, according to court documents. “It’s coming. We’re just waiting for the right moment but it’s coming. When the order is given, you won’t be able to do anything about it. We’ll win.”

Wagner’s defense attorney, Aleksandrea Johnson, argued for a month of home detention as an alternative to jail. The attorney wrote Wagner was struggling financially after becoming the lone caretaker of his children.

“To say that Sean was stressed is a gross understatement,” Johnson wrote. “Sean was doing everything he could to keep his family afloat in the middle of a global pandemic. This led a hopeless situation to an episode of anger that has had a profound impact on Sean’s life.”

Wagner had no previous felony criminal history.

Hendrix wrote that Wagner’s actions were not that of a concerned father. The presence of his children at the shelter endangered them.

“The defendant acted like a bully that day,” Hendrix wrote.“The fact is that he was simply not content to hurl derogatory slurs and insults. Humiliation was not enough. He wanted to make her fearful and did so by his threat.”

Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486; jonathan.tall@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @snocojon.

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