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Wednesday, March 7, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Seattle police sergeant apologizes to family of man killed during melee

Seattle Times staff reporters

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A 31-year veteran sergeant with the Seattle Police Department has sent a letter of apology -- and his overtime check -- to the family of a man killed during the Fat Tuesday melee, saying the department failed to act to save him when it could have.

Sgt. Dan Beste wrote to the mother of Kristopher Kime to say he couldn't in good conscience keep the extra $200 he earned that night, money he said he was paid by taxpayers "to stand by while they were beaten and your son killed."

This morning, Kime's mother said she will use the money to pay funeral expenses. And she plans to frame the letter and hang it on her wall.

"To me, it's like an award to my son," Kimberly Kime-Parks said. "I'm having other veteran policemen and retired policemen who are calling me to tell me my son is a hero."

Beste, contacted this morning, would only say the letter stands on its own.

In it, Beste wrote that he and another sergeant were in command of a squad of 16 riot-gear equipped officers in Pioneer Square that night. "We also were aware of the rising tide of violence long before your son was killed and I continually asked, 'Why don't we stop this?' Unfortunately, my question was never answered."

Kime, 20, was trying to help a woman who had been knocked to the ground during the violent street party. As he leaned over, he was clubbed with a beer bottle, knocked to the ground himself and kicked and beaten. He died later from his injuries. A public memorial is scheduled for this evening.

In all, 71 others were injured -- many beaten by roving gangs of thugs -- before police used tear gas and pepper spray to clear the streets. Kime's assailants remain at large.

Police administrators and Mayor Paul Schell have been criticized, both from inside and out of the department, for not dispersing the crowd sooner.

Beste was disdainful of the chief's concern about officer safety, saying he and his troops were "ready and willing to go into harm's way to do our sworn duty."

Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, who was not available for comment this morning, said yesterday he withdrew troops from Pioneer Square after bottles were thrown at officers about 10:30 that night.

"You have a real responsibility to make sure they (the officers) are protected."

A telephone call to Beste's home was not immediately returned.

"The decision to hold officers back "was obviously not based in sound crowd-control techniques or with regard to public safety," Beste wrote to Kimberly Kime-Parks.

"I want to assure you the majority of the men and women on the department take seriously their oath to 'protect and serve,'" the letter said. "However, it is apparent that both our politicians and our department's command staff lack the necessities required to lead!

"When the excuse is used that we could not act because it is too dangerous for the police, what message are we sending to the citizens that pay our wages to protect them."

Beste commands the department's anti-crime unit in the South Precinct. He is a decorated sergeant who worked for years at the Seattle Center, where he had considerable crowd-control experience, according to a colleague who asked not to be named.

In closing his letter, Beste said he wished a memorial to Kristopher Kime could be constructed near the new Public Safety Building. "Maybe if our leaders had to walk by the memorial each day when they entered the building, no other mother will be required to bury their son under similar circumstances," he wrote.

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