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Friday, March 9, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Suspects' races are 'across the board'

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Of the dozens of people already arrested in connection with the Mardi Gras riot in Pioneer Square last week, whites outnumber blacks significantly, and police say the race of people on a long list of more than 70 other suspects is "across the board."

Yesterday, one white victim was unwilling to blame racism for his injuries.

Luke Kane, 23, was attacked and robbed by a large group of black men who yelled, "There's a white boy with a camera!"

"How can you say either way without catching them and asking them?" said Kane of Burien.

But the lawyer for a young black man accused of clutching brass knuckles as he assaulted people in the crowd said yesterday his client can't get a fair trial in Seattle because of the highly charged publicity.

Police say they have singled out 74 suspects from viewing hours of videotape and piles of photographs since the Fat Tuesday celebration erupted in violence, leaving 20-year-old Kristopher Kime of Kent dead.

Police have made five arrests using the photographic evidence. Kime's killers are still at large. Some 400 tips have flooded a police hotline, and detectives have followed up on 189 of those.

The first of the task force's arrests, 18-year-old Aaron Slaughter of Shoreline, pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault and rioting in King County Superior Court yesterday. He remained held in jail.

Slaughter's image, captured in a Seattle Times photo, showed him wielding brass knuckles as he squared off against another man in the crowd.

His lawyer, Ronald Abernethy, said the Times photo and other television video of Slaughter makes it unlikely Slaughter could get a fair trial in King County. Yesterday, the lawyer demanded news photographers in court not film or photograph Slaughter, to reduce the publicity.

The most recently arrested by the task force, Leonard Lee Haywood, 19, appeared in Seattle District Court yesterday, where Judge Eileen Kato set his bail at $15,000. He is being held on suspicion of rioting. Formal charges have not been filed.

Haywood has a lengthy juvenile record and now is facing an unrelated felony drug charge in Superior Court. Prosecutors say Haywood has been booked into the King County Jail 13 separate times since 1999.

Both Slaughter and Haywood are black. But two other men arrested by the task force are white. Both have been released pending charges. Police wouldn't identify the fifth person or his race yesterday.

Jail records of the hours spanning the Fat Tuesday mayhem show that whites outnumbered blacks among those hauled to jail. Of 25 bookings associated with Pioneer Square violence, eight people were black, 15 were white, jail logs show. One man was East Indian. And one man, Van Veth, 19, who is charged with pointing a loaded handgun into the crowd, is Asian.

Blacks and whites were equally likely to be booked on more serious charges, such as assault, weapons possession and reckless endangerment, the records show.

Similarly, the races of the 74 suspects recently identified by the task force are "across the board," police spokeswoman Pam McCammon said.

"I'm not saying there weren't racial overtones in some assaults, but we certainly cannot say it was a racial event," McCammon said. "We're not seeing one huge race riot."

Kane, a grocery-store worker from Burien, said he and a buddy were trying to get out of Pioneer Square about 2 a.m. Feb. 28, shortly after riot police moved in with tear gas to clear the streets. His friend had been filming the violence on his hand-held camera.

Near the Alaskan Way viaduct, Kane said, a group of about 15 young, black men in dark clothing rounded a corner and spotted them. One of them yelled, "There's a white boy with a camera!" Kane said. They attacked Kane's friend, and when Kane tried to help him, "They all just jumped on me," he said. "They were trying to get the camera."

One of them clubbed Kane across the nose, leaving it swollen and purple.

They took the camera and the men's wallets. Kane had just cashed his paycheck the day before. He had $350.

Kane said he hasn't seen a doctor for his injuries, even though he thinks his nose is broken. He has filed a report with police.

He laughs at the suggestion that it was a hate crime.

"It was just one person who yelled," Kane said. "Who knows what their motives were?"

The worst part of the attack, Kane said, is that he thinks it's possible his friend's videotape may have contained footage of the attack that killed Kime, who was beaten in the head with a bottle and stomped amid the crowd. They had been standing near the scene of the slaying.

This week, the Antioch Bible Church in Bellevue offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of Kime's killer.

"We believe the killing of this young man was not a black or white issue, but an issue of right or wrong," Senior Pastor Ken Hutherson said. "We want to make it a right issue by seeing someone brought to justice."

Meanwhile, police say they have arrived at a plan for covering St. Patrick's Day festivities in Seattle, but they won't give details. They don't expect trouble.

"Venues are spread out, and it's a celebratory event," police spokesman Sean O'Donnell said. "It has not been a concern."

In Seattle on Sunday, Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske is to participate in a summit of police leaders from Austin, Texas; Fresno, Calif.; Philadelphia; and Portland to discuss Mardi Gras problems in their respective cities and review strategies for preventing them in the future.

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