King County prosecutors contend Matthew L. Harbert pulled a knife on a Seattle police officer on Oct. 24 after the officer confronted him about threats he'd made to passersby on the downtown waterfront. According to charging papers, Harbert, a 31-year-old sex offender who has repeatedly failed to tell police where he is living, then dove into Elliott Bay in an ill-conceived getaway attempt.
Convicted in 2006 of accessing child pornography, Harbert is alleged to have told police he wished he'd been born in another country where he wouldn't be forced to register as a sex offender. Child porn, he is alleged to have explained, "doesn't hurt anyone."
The trouble apparently began at 1:15 p.m. when a security manager at the Crab Pot restaurant on Pier 57 told Harbert to calm down after seeing the man harass a pedestrian on Alaskan Way. That set off Harbert, who'd been sitting on the sidewalk and began screaming at the restaurant worker.
Called to the scene along with his partner, a Seattle police officer asked Harbert for his name and eventually discovered a warrant had been issued for Harbert's arrest.
Harbert demanded he not be arrested and picked up a multi-purpose tool with the knife blade extended, which he held in a threatening manner, a Seattle detective said in court papers.
One of the officers drew his pistol while the other pulled a stun gun. Both trained their weapons on Harbert as they demanded he drop the knife.
"When (the officer) said he would Taze him, Harbert picked up his puppy and held him to his chest," the detective said in charging papers. "He used the puppy as a shield."
Several minutes passed before Harbert dropped the knife and stepped away from it, the detective continued. He then walked into traffic holding the puppy.
Harbert returned to the sidewalk, only to throw himself over a railing and into Elliott Bay, the detective said in court papers. The officers and an Argosy Cruises worker rescued Harbert, though he refused to get out of the water until Seattle firefighters arrived.
Harbert was treated in a fire department ambulance, which he refused to leave unless he was allowed to speak with a KOMO/4 photographer who had responded to the scene. Concerned that Harbert might damage the ambulance, police agreed and allowed him to speak with the news crew following his arrest.
According to charging documents, Harbert was erratic during an interview with police.
"Harbert began rambling about not choosing to be born in the U.S. or being subject to its laws," the detective told the court. "He said that no one had the authority to impose laws onto other peoples' behavior, and that his previous prison time was 'only for child porn, and that doesn't hurt anyone, so it shouldn't be illegal.'"
Harbert has been charged with second-degree assault. He remains jailed.