Don’t assault that 49ers fan: He or she might actually be a cop
Hoping to keep football fans on their best behavior, armed, undercover Seattle Police Department officers will patrol the Seahawks’ first home game this season while wearing 49er fan gear.
Seattle Times staff reporter
CenturyLink officials say fans can report inappropriate behavior during Seahawks games to any staff member, by text message to HAWK12 (429512), or call at 888-MYHAWKS (888-694-2957).
Greg Skahill’s last visit to CenturyLink Field ended with medics tending to his swollen and broken face after he regained consciousness.
Skahill, now 25, had gone to the stadium last Sept. 24 to cheer on the Green Bay Packers in a game that would become notorious for the last-second “Fail Mary” pass that gave the Seahawks a contentious victory.
But Skahill, who lives in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, missed the play. At the end of the fourth quarter, nature called and he headed down a ramp from the uppermost level as he heard the crowd roar in reaction to the last play.
The next thing he knew, his nose and a bone around his eye were broken and his Aaron Rodgers jersey was soaked in blood. Skahill still has no idea who, or what, hit him. Police investigated but have made no arrest.
In an attempt to deter the kind of violence and boorish behavior that has marred many sporting events, some armed Seattle Police Department officers will wear San Francisco 49ers gear to patrol Sunday’s game at CenturyLink Field. The Police Department, which was asked by stadium officials to use the tactic this year, hopes it will help fans think twice about how they treat everyone at the game, no matter what team they’re rooting for.
West Precinct Captain Jim Dermody and CenturyLink Field officials wouldn’t say how many of the officers will go undercover as 49ers fans, or where they plan to circulate in the crowd expected to exceed 67,000 in and around the stadium.
Seattle police also worked undercover during the Seahawks’ exhibition game against the Oakland Raiders, but Dermody said staffing will definitely be higher than normal on Sunday because the nationally televised night game is against a division rival.
“Sometimes, when that’s the case there are more people coming into the stadium more intoxicated,” Dermody said.
The San Francisco Police Department has employed a similar undercover strategy at the 49ers’ own Candlestick Park and at the Giants’ AT&T Park since 2011.
Officer Gordon Shyy says the Police Department started the practice immediately after Giants fan Bryan Stow was severely beaten and his brain damaged at Dodger Stadium in March 2011.
“We wanted to make sure people understood that kind of behavior would not be tolerated here,” Shyy said. “We wanted to make sure there were adequate resources right there before something escalated.”
Shyy said it’s hard to quantify how many incidents his department might have prevented with the tactic, but they’ve continued to use it, especially at big games. In the 49ers’ game Sunday against the Packers at Candlestick, there were two felony arrests, six misdemeanor arrests, 13 ejections by police and an additional 33 ejections by Candlestick security.
Shyy said the number of incidents at the game wasn’t as high as expected because Candlestick decided this season to stop selling alcohol after halftime.
CenturyLink Field does the same.
Stadium spokeswoman Suzanne Lavender says the stadium does not disclose ejection numbers.
In the most recent Seattle-San Francisco meeting at CenturyLink, the Seahawks pummeled the 49ers 42-13 last December.
Some 49ers fans later complained the 12th Man was just as rough in the stands.
Sarah Brown, a third-generation 49ers fan who’d organized a group of more than 30 family and friends to come up from Vancouver, Wash., said she spent the game guarding her teenage son and his friend from men shouting expletives at them and a drunk man getting in her face to tell her he would “kick my ass.”
“I expected playful banter back and forth, a dig here and there,” Brown said. “But I never thought it would be anything more than that.”
At another game last year, Minnesota Vikings fan Ty Copp was knocked unconscious when he was sucker-punched by a Seahawks fan at CenturyLink Field, according to court documents.
Seahawks President Peter McLoughlin said in a statement: “Our goal is to ensure a safe environment for all in attendance, including visiting team fans.”
However, Seahawks game tickets bear a disclaimer that reads, in part: “Ticket holder assumes all risks incident to the Events including ... personal injury.”
Skahill believes the stadium’s private security officers should have ensured that a police report was made the night he was injured. Instead, Skahill’s girlfriend called Seattle Police the next day to initiate a report of aggravated assault.
CenturyLink officials did not respond to requests for comment about the incident.
Though he thinks the odds of being hurt again are small, Skahill doesn’t know if he’ll ever go back to CenturyLink Field. “I just don’t ever want that to happen to me again.”
Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @AlexaVaughn.