Senior center planning self-defense class after elderly targeted by thieves

SEATTLE -- After two local senior citizens survived scary encounters with thieves recently, a local senior center is planning self-defense classes for the elderly.

Just a few weeks ago an 83-year-old woman had her purse snatched from her hands at the Walgreens parking lot in White Center. Cameras caught the crime in the act but the crook got away.

Now, a South Seattle man said he believes seniors can do more to protect themselves.

Mark Bryant works for the Southeast Seattle Senior Center and he believes seniors should be trained to defend from thieves who could become violent.

These exercises are only the beginning for students to learn how to better protect themselves from crime.

“Self-defense doesn’t mean that you are violent it just means if you have to have it, it’s there for you,” he said.

It’s happened twice in the last month, crooks targeting seniors. First to 82-year-old Marie Hagenarrs in White Center when a thief snatched her purse right from her hands.

“It makes me angry but it makes me sad,” she said.

Then another theft against a senior happened only days later to 80-year-old Jerry Sebranke in Bothell. Cameras also caught a different thief stealing his bike. But Jerry fought back, and ended up jumping in the back of the thief’s truck

“When I bailed off the asphalt was going by awful fast, and I just let go until my feet hit the ground and I went shoo shoo, and I finally stopped rolling after a while,” said Sebranke.

That’s why Bryant plans to open a new self-defense class for some of the most vulnerable people among us.

“There are so many seniors that are vulnerable right now, walking, do not have any idea how to be aware and doesn’t have a clue how to defend themselves,” he said.

Besides instructing situational awareness, Bryant said the classes will show seniors how to defend themselves if needed.

“There’s ways to use a cane where it will not get taken away, where it can be very effective for seniors,” he said.

Some of his students said they are ready to learn self-defense tactics.

“You might have to defend yourself some kind of way, who’s going to defend you otherwise?” said Lanetta Tiokasin.

Thankfully neither Sebranke or Hagenarrs were hurt in their scuffles. Bryant said the incidents are proof that seniors need to know how to fight back.

“You just got to think that way, you have to be aware at all times,” he said.

But don’t worry -- jumping on the back of a speeding pickup won’t be part of the defense class, says Bryant.

Anyone is welcome to join the class. He said costs were around $10 and the class is planned for Friday September 16 at the Southeast Seattle Senior Center.