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Seattle police chief denies claims her department is not responding to 911 calls in the autonomous zone

Andrew Cuomo

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best denied claims that officers in her department have been instructed not to respond to 911 calls in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood “autonomous zone,” also known as the CHAZ or CHOP.

One business owner in the area told CNN affiliate KIRO that despite numerous calls to 911 Sunday night following a break-in, no police officers or firefighters showed up. The police department told the affiliate that it did respond to the scene and provided a case number but no narrative.

‘Seattle is not under siege’

All police personnel were pulled out of the Seattle Police Department East Precinct in Capitol Hill last week after tensions with protesters reached a boiling point.

Despite the conflict, over the weekend the scene resembled more of a festival or farmers market than a protest.

Speaking to CNN’s Chris Cuomo Monday night on Cuomo Prime Time, the chief said that if there is an “important emergency 911 call” the department would respond to the six-block area that has been occupied since last week.

“Seattle is not under siege and we are responding to every call and every area of the city,” Best said.

The statement comes after Seattle Police officers received a department-wide email June 12 that instructed them not to respond to calls for service within the CHAZ unless they were responding to a “mass casualty event” such as an active shooter or structural fire.

Seattle Police spokesman Detective Patrick Michaud confirmed the authenticity of the email to CNN on Monday and reiterated that officers will still respond to any significant life safety issues.

For any other calls, people will be asked to meet police outside of the zone, Michaud said.

“Admittedly there are barricades that prevent us from going in as quickly and efficiently as we like to,” Best told Cuomo. “We recognize that we have to make sure we protect everyone’s safety in this situation.”

Break-in outside the zone

Just outside of the six-block area, auto shop Car Tender was broken into Sunday night, business owner John McDermott told KIRO.

McDermott and his son managed to detain the suspect who they say tried to start a fire and stole cash and car keys but said that police and fire failed to respond to numerous 911 calls, the affiliate reported. They eventually let the suspect go.

“They alluded they were sending someone… finally said they weren’t going to send somebody,” McDermott told the station. “I don’t know what to expect next. If you can’t call the police department, you can’t call the fire department to respond, what do you have?”

Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins stopped by the business late Monday morning to speak with the McDermotts and said his department needs clearance from Seattle Police to respond inside the zone, but that they should have been able to respond to Car Trader, which is outside, KIRO reported.

Seattle Police replied to the affiliate’s request for more information with a case number but were unable to provide a copy of the narrative saying, “Seattle Police did respond to the incident last night and documented the incident on a report,” according to KIRO.

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