Seattle police officer injured in riot: 'I saw so much hate'

A Seattle police officer injured during a riot is telling her story.

The officer asked Q13 News to use only her first name, Ellie, because she is worried about being targeted. She said she wanted to speak out so that those attacking police can learn more about the person behind the badge.

When Ellie immigrated to the United States from Lebanon, she never dreamed she would become a police officer. It wasn't a profession women in the Middle East pursued, she said.

But just a year after getting her citizenship, Ellie joined the Seattle Police Department – eager to help bridge divides between officers and the communities they serve. 

"I started a Lebanese group so that everybody gets to know each other," she said. 

Ellie is one of the only officers with SPD who speaks Arabic. She joined the force three years ago hoping to be a role model for others in the immigrant community. 

"Just being able to show the community that I made it, that I am a police officer and I am a female, a Muslim, a minority, and first-generation immigrant," she said. "I made it and I am here and it's a great thing for them to look up to and they could do it too."

By all accounts, Ellie is the kind of officer that a progressive city like Seattle hopes for. But to those who only see a uniform and a badge, Ellie's story means nothing.

During a riot outside the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct on July 25, Ellie suffered a torn meniscus when someone in the crowd threw a rock at her right leg. She jerked it away quickly, causing her left knee to twist. 

In total, Seattle police said 59 officers were injured that day.

Ellie says her recovery could take months, but there is emotional healing too.

“There's just so much hate," she said. "I saw so much hate in people's eyes.”

Ellie said that hate made her consider leaving SPD about a month ago. The lack of support in the city felt like too much.

"My goal was to be here to make a change, to be there for people, to influence people's lives positively, so if I can't do that and they don't want me there, then why am I there? That's what I was thinking."

But as she wondered whether the city of Seattle wanted her, a call came in for help. A call that the police officer from Lebanon was meant to handle. A call that made her realize that Seattle is exactly where she belongs.

"This female is yelling and screaming and crying and (other officers) are not able to communicate with her at all. I told the husband 'hello' in Arabic and you could just see his face immediately relax," Ellie said. "She doesn't want to listen to any police officer because she is scared of people in uniform because they are refugees from Iraq, and the female was tortured by the Iraqi military. I told her 'Hi, I'm sorry you are going through this. I'm just like you – I'm just wearing this uniform."

Ellie said her ability to communicate with the woman calmed her down. 

I talked to her husband a little more and he felt like people care about him, the department cares about him."

Ellie said no Seattle City Council member has reached out to her to express sympathy for her injuries, or the injuries of any other officers. Newer officers like Ellie could be on the chopping block if the Seattle City Council votes to defund SPD by 50 percent on Aug. 10.