Edmonds man threatened on Sunset Avenue says he’s unlikely to take family there again

The man who threatened to kill an Edmonds family and yelled racial slurs along Sunset Avenue was reportedly driving this type of car -- a 1996 maroon Toyota Camry.

The man who yelled racial slurs and threatened to kill an Edmonds family while they walked along Sunset Avenue Aug. 20 was reportedly driving a mid-1990s maroon Toyota Camry-type vehicle like this one.

Updated Sept. 2 with additional information from Edmonds police clarifying license plate number /type of vehicle sought. Vehicle may be similar to a Camry rather than a Camry itself.

An Edmonds man said Saturday he is unlikely to bring his children back to Sunset Avenue after a suspect made racial slurs against the family and threatened to kill them as they walked along the scenic Edmonds waterfront earlier this month.

“I’m not that comfortable to go there with my kids,” said Dembo Sanneh, who had taken his two young daughters  — ages 2 and 3 — and his niece and nephew — ages 3 and 7 — out for a walk along the Sunset Avenue trail when the incident occurred Aug. 20.

Sanneh said that at about 7:10 p.m. that day, the family was approached from behind by a white man driving a vehicle described as a maroon mid-1990s Toyota Camry-style vehicle. The man began yelling at them and shaking his hand. “He called us niggers and asked what we were doing walking on the trail,” Sanneh said. “He said he did not want to see any black people on the waterfront. He said he had a gun and was going to come and kill me and my kids if we didn’t leave.”

The driver, described as about 40 years old and “chubby,” with reddish hair and a clean-shaven round face, also accused the family of carrying the Ebola virus, AIDS and HIV, Sanneh said. The suspect drove around the block three times, stopping each time to threaten the family and calling them names, Sanneh added.

Sanneh, who has lived in Edmonds for about six years, said he didn’t get the car’s license plate. “I was too angry and I wasn’t using my brain, which I regret,” he said.

However, a witness who observed the incident was able to provide a license plate number. Police have not been able to exactly match the number provided but any possible sightings of a similar vehicle with a license plate bearing anything close to this number — AMK7393 —  may be directed to Edmonds Police  Detective Corporal Damian Smith at dsmith@edmondswa.gov.

According to Edmonds police, the man’s alleged actions violate the state’s malicious harassment law, which states it is a Class C felony — punishable by up to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine — to make threats or cause personal injury or property damage based on a victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical or sensory handicap.

Sanneh, who is originally from Gambia and has lived in the U.S. for 15 years, said he has been subjected to racial slurs in the past, but he was particularly concerned that the young children in his care had also been targeted. While his 2-year-old daughter was unaware of what was happening, the older children “were scared,” said Sanneh, who works as an attendant counselor manager for the Department of Social and Health Services in Lake City. “My 3-year-old asked me why the man was calling us names.”

Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling described the incident as “clearly not acceptable,” noting that “Edmonds residents find this type of racism repugnant  Our city has worked hard to be inclusive and are building wonderful ethnic diversity in our community.”

According to Marsh, the vehicle and suspect information was sent out to “numerous regional law enforcement agencies covering four counties, in an effort to locate the suspect.”

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51 Comments

  1. This is disgusting! One rotten apple does spoil the basket. This is not the feelings of the majority of Edmonds residents! I apologize to this family and pray that they will remain here. I
    pray also that this repugnant criminal is caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
    It is time for all of us to stand up against racists and their criminal ungodly attitudes and actions.

    • Pat, in response to your call to action “for all of us to stand up against racists and their criminal ungodly attitudes and actions” an Edmonds Embraces Diversity demonstration has been formed to support the family of Dembo Sanneh, and repudiate the maliciousness of this racially motivated crime.

      A peaceful demonstration – and gathering of neighbors – will take place THIS Sunday, September 7 at 7 pm ☆ At the north side of Brackett’s Landing ☆

      Details, updates and event news and sharing are at THIS Facebook Event Page:
      https://www.facebook.com/events/1462220080721116/?context=create&source=49

      Note: The walk route for the demonstration will be exclusive along the Edmonds Marine Walkway out to the look-out-to-the-world rock and back.

      Police Department stipulation: No demonstration route, or rally, may impede pedestrian or vehicular traffic.

  2. That is disgusting. I am so sorry for that man and his family. The Edmonds community is made up of all sorts of people respect each other. What a disgusting human being.

  3. I truly hope this man is caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Edmonds is known for its peaceful charm. We don’t need low life’s taking that from our town. This gentlemen better know that the town is looking for his car, id be uncomfortable if i was him!

  4. Seems apparent, to me, that we have a mentally challenged and deranged person on the loose in our area who needs to be hospitalized. I am glad this incident was reported and not swept under the rug, and I can only hope he has moved away from this community never to be seen nor heard from again. (This event sounded like 1950s Missisipi behavior. Appalling.)

  5. Please please please understand that not everyone feels that way. I am thrilled when I see some evidence of diversity in our lovely city. Please know that you are welcome and come back with your kids. I hope they weren’t too traumatized. I can only believe this idiot is mentally ill.

  6. Shocking. Appalling. Disgusting, Shameful.

    Spewing such verbal violence from the safety of a car at a father and four kids out for an evening walk ranks among the lowest forms of cowardice, bigotry and small-mindedness.

    What a week of black eyes for Edmonds: first the Hutt Park vandalism, now this. I sure hope things like this don’t come in 3’s…I shudder to think what may be next.

  7. If Mr. Sanneh wants to go for a walk on the waterfront I will happily join him and his children any time he likes. I don’t think Toyota man lives around here. That sort of crazy tends to draw attention, and if the local police don’t know him, there’s probably a reason. Maybe he rode across on the ferry.

    • Mr. Rumpelein,

      You will not improve Edmonds’ reputation by insulting our neighboring communities.

      Cynthia Watrous

      • Cynthia, I have absolutely no idea where he’s from, I just suggested he wasn’t a local. Or are you offended by my suggestion that such a person might ride the ferry?

  8. Mr. Sanneh, please know that most of us in Edmonds are happy you are here with your darling children and will be happy to welcome you in Edmonds anytime! My family would be very happy to go for a walk with yours and the children can play together. Please don’t let one hateful person keep you from doing what you enjoy! I am so sorry that you were treated like this.

  9. Dear Mr. Sanneh,

    I appreciate your horror and anger at what this shameful and disgusting person did to you and your family. Unfortunately, there is no way to erase from your mind and the minds of the little ones what this incident took from you all. However, do please know that this is not Edmonds and that this low-life’s actions should not rob you and your family of the charm and beauty that this town has to offer.

  10. Dear Mr. Sanneh,

    What happened to you and your family is beyond appalling. I know that for every person here that wrote, there are probably hundreds of others that feel the same and just have not found the time to put it into words the disgust they feel about that mans repugnant actions and the community support they have for you. I hope the police find him soon so that you will feel safe to take your family and walk along the waters of Edmonds again.

  11. The report of this incident breaks my heart.

    What would it take to stage a “Walk With . . .” demonstration along Sunset? Would we (those who might join me) need a permit?

    Who’s ready to move their attention from the Ice Bucket Challenge to a “Edmonds Embraces Diversity” demonstration?

    Actually, I have had several visiting friends over the years note that Edmonds lacks in diversity, particularly one musician friend visiting from Nantes, France who noted after 10 days in Edmonds eight YEARS ago, “There aren’t any . . . uhh, , , black people in Edmonds, are there?” His observation was almost most true — there were 3 black families living in the Bowl at that time. Our Edmonds population now more reflects the REAL world, for which I am happy.

    You in?? Next Sunday, Sept 7th? At 7pm? — I’ll check with the City of Edmonds and see what is necessary — but if YOU know, step up and chime in!

    • Emily, please add me to your list of participants for the Edmonds diversity walk. And let me know talking points and signs you’d like to see. I will be there!

    • Emily, Is there a starting point for the walk? 7pm this Sunday and where will we begin?

  12. I say, “Let’s go for it, Emily!” Create a stir, gain some publicity, and flush this rat out of his hiding place so he can be held accountable for his actions.

  13. Thank you, Vivian for stepping up — I know that John Rumpelein — and hopefully many more — will join us.

    I’ll go to the City of Edmonds Police department and request a public demonstration permit for a meet-up at Brackett’s Landing with a walk out to “the point” and back.

    Sunday, September 7 at 7 p.m. is my goal.
    Let’s brainstorm placards, and the administrative details. emily_s_hill@hotmail.com

    I’ll look forward to meeting you next Sunday.

    • Emily, I will be there for sure.

      As for diversity, Edmonds is bigger than the bowl and the waterfront area. People looking for diversity should head up nearer to 99, where they will find a lot of African immigrants as well as a large Korean population.

  14. I’ve shared this item with my Facebook community. Let’s find this guy and turn him in.

  15. i am so sorry this happen to mr. sanneh and his children .this man may not live in Edmonds .I am from the same country as mr sanneh and goes to the beach with my three kids every other weekend also has been going to the Saturday market and the bakery as well .I have a great friend in Edmonds and known people in Edmonds to be very kind . I pray that this man get caught soon.

  16. •*¨*☆☆ ♥
    Carol Shillios, Vivian Murray, and John Rumpelein ~ and other friends who join us ~ I will apply for a parade/public demonstration permit Tuesday morning and will apprise you, here in the ‘comments section’ of this article.

    NEXT Sunday, September 7 at 7pm we’ll walk in support of the Sanneh family, and for an “Edmonds Embraces Diversity” demonstration. •*¨* ☆☆ ♥

    • Absolutely!! I’m in and hopefully many of my friends will join me as well!! I am telling about another 50-100 people about this and sharing it on my FB!!! This must stop and never happen again in this crazy little community!!!!

  17. Hello Emily and thank you. Please add Tere Ryder and Gayle Ketzel as participants…..add us to this great walk for more diversity in Edmonds and to remind people we all live together on this small planet and it takes all of us to share our humanity. with each other…..What else is there?! if not that

    • Tere, thank you so much; everyone appreciates yours and Gayle’s public show of support for the Sanneh family.
      See you NEXT Sunday; details to follow. •*¨* ☆☆ ♥

  18. Lyrics from Peter Paul and Mary, Blowin’ In The Wind, from many, many years ago come to mind…..Perhaps time to revisit……..how many times?………..how many times?…….

  19. My husband and I were the witnesses and this man was a vile bigot to be so cruel and yell death threats at all, let alone one foot away from this man and the children. He did it twice and I was yelling at him to get out of here and then called the police. My husband is Asian and we have never been discriminated against in Edmonds and have lived here for 14 years.
    We will be at the walk on Sunday and thank you for arranging it.
    The Chans

    • Thank you, Heather, for calling the police and for standing up to this man! People need to know that this is not okay. I grew up in a place with a lot of racial tension and we do NOT need it here.

  20. Maybe we can get all of our elected officials to show up for the Diversity Walk also.

    • They should be there for sure and I sure hope the media giants will be there as well.. I want this damn community to learn and learn quickly!!

  21. Wow, I am blown away at the dis courtesy (spelled correctly) of a nincompoop who spoils the loveliness of our community. Everywhere I walk, I greet my fellow neighbors and visitors. This kind of profiling is dis graceful, and I am feeling very sad for anyone who is threatened in any way. I’ve got the walk on our calendar. See you on the 7th after the car show.

    • Frannie, that you will attend and walk with us is Joy-filled news.

      I am so happy, but not surprised by your generous support. ~Emily

  22. There will always be a few morons like this, but this is NOT Edmonds. We can only apologize for such unacceptable, disgusting behavior and hope that the Sanneh family will be able to regain their sense of safety in our city. I think I can speak for the vast majority of us, and say that the Sannehs are welcome here, and hope that they remain with us.

  23. I am so saddened to hear of this inhumanity. My husband and I will join you on Sunday.My most heartfelt wishes to the Sannehs.

  24. I’m very proud of the people of Edmonds, thank you for your support. THANK you Emily for organizing the walk.

  25. Thank you for all of you that have commented here. I am starting to feel like maybe there is hope in Edmonds!! I have lived here and owned my place for 10 years and have seen very little change in this small city. It is time for action and diversity to come to Edmonds!! Thank you so much,

    Abbie White

  26. I am so sorry for what happened to this family, and I would like my family to participate in the walk. I’ll keep checking back here for details. Thank you!

  27. I’m hoping many will show up for diversity all over Edmonds and down here in the bowl in particular………..We need a more united and diverse Edmonds, so come on and show your support. We’re all in this together, and only this way can we have a
    town that represents and cares for all of its citizens. …..Yes, time for action for divrsity to come to all of Edmonds.

  28. Perhaps this publisher could list under “Events” that there will be a Walk for Diversity In Edmonds on Sunset, Sunday, and note time will be listed shortly

    • I will publicize all the details as soon as the organizer has confirmed them with me.

      • Did you get the details yet? We just got home from our trip to find our house damaged by a construction crew next door but will try to make it.

    • I’m driving down from BC to be there. Thanks for organizing this!

      Any chance Mr. Sanneh could be there to be applauded?

  29. I wish the mayor had found better wording than “this type of racism.” One knows what he means, but…

  30. No, I don’t know what that means, Nathaniel Brown……”this type of racism”.. One could ask a million questions regarding that………. Racism is racism ………there aren’t differenty types of racism…..It’s all the same. You know it when you hear it, and you know it when you see it. …..and you know it when you feel it

  31. Actually, there are different forms or types of racism with some sources suggesting 4 major types and other sources suggest there are 7 types. In any event, the mayor was speaking specifically about the Sunset Ave. incident which would likely be classified as harassment racism.

    • May I respectfully submit that we don’t want ANY racism in Edmonds? I really don’t think the mayor was differentiating between 4 or even 7 types. I’m certain he meant well, but it might have been better expressed.

      For that matter, I hope we don’t want any discrimination in our wonderful city!

  32. Matt Waldron, It sounds like your “sources” may have come from television media. I don’t have a television, nor do I watch it, but I’ve been around long enough to know that racism is racism, no matter how whoever spins it……or whoever says there are different degrees, catagories, classifications, etc.

    It’s all the same

  33. If the culprit’s car license number is known than the police must have determined the culprit’s identity, and if he’s a resident of Edmonds. Perhaps he’s not an Edmonds resident.

    • If I remember right the plates were found to have been stolen from a car up in Everett several months back. So this guy seems to have other criminal hobbies besides riding around threatening strangers.

  34. It is heart warming to see all of these replies. As an Asian woman living in Shoreline/Seattle, I have not encountered ugly racist behavior except one time when a woman told me to go back to my country. I also facilitate diversity training in organizations so I have a lot of passion around this topic as well as all the other ways humans discriminate. If you’re interested in reading a fascinating paper on “white privilege” here is the link:

    http://amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html

    One small example that struck me was that band aids are “flesh” color. Whose flesh? It amazes me that I had never thought about it.

    I feel that I experience many of these privileges and I would like to continue to help others who are less fortunate.

    I am out of town on Sunday evening but please know that I will be with all of you in spirit!

  35. Thank you Helene Cho for submitting this. Excellent………. unpacking the invisible knapsack!……………Yes, help others that are less fortunate and really see the “white privilege” A stunning list to think about. Very sobering.

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