Sword-Wielder Lived On Streets As Strange Loner
Seattle Times Staff Reporters
After he got out of Western State Hospital last year - released not because anyone thought he was ready, but because he'd served his 10 years - Tony Allison drifted into a world where people drink alcohol for breakfast and where "home" is a shelter, a mission or a doorway.
He was a loner who strutted along the streets in his fatigues and military beret, a sword in a scabbard behind his back.
But even on the streets, he was considered somewhat strange: sometimes talking crazy, sometimes insisting he wanted to be left alone, sometimes becoming belligerent.
The sword-wielding Allison held Seattle Police at bay on a downtown street corner for 11 hours Thursday, disrupting the comings and goings of thousands before police finally overwhelmed him.
Allison's was a familiar face on downtown streets. Sometimes he would go to the Union Gospel Mission at Second Avenue South and South Washington Street for food and, occasionally, a bed.
He'd often talk to himself, mostly "crazy talk," "way out stuff that nobody could understand," said James Barker, head of security and lead supervisor at the mission's men's shelter.
When Allison couldn't get his way, Barker said, "he'd cuss somebody out." Sometimes he'd harass workers and be asked to leave.
Some bars wouldn't let him in. In those that would, he'd sometimes begin ranting about some pet peeve and become belligerent, especially when bartenders tried to limit him to one drink, said
those who knew him.
"He comes here and he gets put out," said "Mama Red," a frequent customer at the Mirror Tavern on Pike Street near First Avenue. She said she had known Allison since the mid-1970s.
When he didn't get as much to drink as he wanted, Allison sometimes would get loud, shouting "I'm gonna stab you!" she said, but he never pulled out his sword. He wasn't violent, she said.
"He'd ramble," agreed John McKee, a customer at the Turf, another neighborhood bar. "But he never hurt anybody."
Now Allison has been hospitalized once again, at Harborview Medical Center, where he was taken after the long standoff ended Thursday.
He was listed in satisfactory condition last night. Although Harborview cannot confirm that he is a psychiatric patient there, people can be involuntarily committed for three working days if county mental-health professionals think they are mentally ill and are either dangerous to themselves, dangerous to others or gravely disabled.
If they meet the criteria for commitment, they can be held for 14 days. There are more hearings, and increasing periods of commitment up to 180 days, according to Dr. Christos Dagadakis, the hospital's director of emergency psychiatry.
Allison likely won't be charged with a crime given that he is "very clearly mentally disturbed," said Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper. But Stamper said Allison may be sent to a mental institution.
Allison was sent to Western State Hospital in 1986 after he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to a charge of second-degree assault with intent to rape, according to Dr. Jerry Dennis, the hospital's director.
He was accused of knocking a woman down, sitting on her, calling her names and threatening to drag her into his apartment, Dennis said.
On Thursday, Allison wielded a sword at a passer-by at Second Avenue and Pike Street. He refused to surrender the weapon to police for 11 hours, talking about Satan and demons, responding to police with gibberish and nonsensical rants about demons and Apollo. At one point he told police that he had brothers in China and Russia.
Assistant Police Chief Harv Ferguson, who oversaw police handling of the incident, said that in such standoffs police prefer to negotiate, use nonlethal weapons and wait - so long as a person doesn't present a threat.
In 1984, Robert Baldwin killed King County Police Officer Michael Raeburn with a sword when he was being served a notice evicting him from a Yesler Terrace apartment.
After a 17-hour standoff, the emergency-response team stormed the unit. Baldwin died of 21 bullet wounds in his back.
The Baldwin incident and the subsequent criticism over the police handling of the situation have profoundly influenced how police handle standoffs now.
Ferguson said he's not surprised the department has been criticized for not resolving the Thursday standoff more quickly. It will soon fade, he predicted, but a standoff that ends in a death hangs over the department for years.
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