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Sheriff nearly stabbed outside King County Courthouse

King County Sheriff Sheriff John Urquhart said a man tried to stab him and his chief of staff, Chris Barringer outside the county courthouse in downtown Seattle Tuesday. (Photo: KOMO News) 

SEATTLE - The King County Sheriff said a man tried to stab him outside the courthouse on Tuesday, just weeks after he raised concerns about escalating crime in that area.

Sheriff John Urquhart and Chris Barringer, his chief of staff, were headed back to the courthouse just after 8 a.m. when they heard a man cursing them near a Metro entrance near James Street and Third Avenue.

The two men stepped into the crosswalk when the light turned green, and then everything changed.

“That's when I heard his yelling getting closer to my back,” Barringer said. “We turned around and he was running right at us holding a pair of scissors above his shoulder like this. So that's when I drew my gun. He stopped about three or four feet away and backed off."

Seeing the gun apparently convinced the man to instead get away, and at that point the sheriff called 911.

This attempted assault follows a string of safety complaints by judges, jurors and citizens in recent weeks, who said the area around the courthouse has become a hotbed for crime.

Barringer said he and the sheriff have been verbally threatened before, but never by someone who showed a weapon.

“Had we not turned around and squared off with him I think he would have stabbed one or both of us in the back with the scissors,” Barringer said.

Seattle police were able to catch up to the suspect a few blocks away near Centurylink and take him into custody. Witnesses said the man appeared to be in some sort of mental crisis.

Urquhart has offered a solution to the street crime issues and should hear soon if the county council will approve his plan. The sheriff is asking for more money to assign deputies to foot patrols around the courthouse.

The presiding judges of both superior and district court are backing this request. A decision is expected in the next few weeks.

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