A 26-year-old Kent man charged for reportedly intimidating a school employee at Meridian Elementary School remains in the care of King County.
Kent city prosecutors charged Noah W. Peterson Nov. 16 with allegedly intimidating a school employee and harassment for a Nov. 14 incident near Meridian Elementary, according to Kent Municipal Court documents. The incident resulted in a school lockdown for one day and closure for four days.
“He was scheduled on the Kent Municipal Court’s docket today (Thursday, Dec. 1), but he’s still in King County’s care, so his hearing in Kent Municipal Court was set over until Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 1 p.m.,” City Attorney Tammy White said in an email.
Peterson is in the custody of King County Designated Crisis Responders, held under the Involuntary Treatment Act, White said.
“If King County elects not to continue to hold Mr. Peterson under the Involuntary Treatment Act, the hospital where he is currently held will contact Kent Police who will pick him up and return him to our jail,” White said.
The scheduled Dec. 6 hearing in Kent Municipal Court is to address competency as raised by Peterson’s public defender. That hearing had been scheduled for Dec. 1 but was continued since Peterson remains under county care.
After the hearing, Peterson could be kept in custody for treatment or on the charges. He also could be released depending on the judge’s ruling.
If a court (judge) believes a mental health issue may prevent a person from aiding in their defense, the court puts the criminal case on hold (per RCW 10.77) while an evaluation is completed to determine that individual’s legal competence to proceed with the criminal court case, according to the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) website.
If the individual is found not competent, DSHS is required to provide them with competency restoration services in a timely fashion, after which point the criminal case may proceed, according to DSHS. The majority of competency restoration services are provided in the forensic units of Western State Hospital in Lakewood in Pierce County.
DSHS, however, has approximately 850 mentally ill defendants across the state that are waiting for court-ordered mental health treatment at state psychiatric facilities, according to a Nov. 29 report on king5.com. King County has more than a record-number of 100 mentally ill defendants waiting in the county jail for a bed at Western State Hospital, according to the report.
The criminal case is in Kent Municipal Court because the charges are misdemeanors. King County Superior Court handles felony cases.
“Through the criminal case, it is our primary hope that Mr. Peterson will be able to receive the medical care he needs,” White said.
Kent Police arrested Peterson Nov. 16 and booked him into the city jail before he was transported less than 24 hours later to a treatment center for psychiatric care and evaluation, Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said in an email.
An estimated 150 people attended a town hall meeting Nov. 22 about the Meridian Elementary incident. Padilla, Kent Mayor Dana Ralph and Kent School District Superintendent Israel Vela led a nearly 90-minute meeting.
Meridian Elementary parents and teachers raised concerns about what will happen next, especially if Peterson is released from custody.
“We all anticipate he will be released at some point,” Padilla said at the meeting. “That could be weeks from now, months from now, I don’t know, it depends on how the process works out. …The moment he is released I assure you the school district will be notified right away.”
Padilla said if Peterson returns home and doesn’t violate any court orders, he will remain free.