`Justice For Darres Park' -- Man Who Claimed He Was Attacked Is Arrested In Three Bank Robberies

Last month, foes of racial hatred rallied around a young man of Chinese and Korean heritage named Darres Park, who told how he took a stand in downtown Seattle when some white toughs beat him up.

Park was a featured speaker at a University of Washington protest, and Seattle Police and city officials expressed concern over his claim that he apparently had to file a report twice before his case got their attention.

Today, the 23-year-old student at Seattle Central Community College is in jail, charged in U.S. District Court with three counts of armed bank robbery.

Also arrested by the FBI yesterday was Joseph S. Fritz, 21, one of two friends who said they witnessed the attack that night in October.

In an affidavit filed by the FBI, Park and Fritz are accused of twice robbing a bank in Battle Ground, Clark County, not far from the home of Park's parents, and of robbing a branch of Seafirst Bank a block from Park's apartment in Seattle's Roosevelt neighborhood.

In questioning yesterday, Fritz told the FBI that he and Park used shotguns and semiautomatic pistols in the robberies, the affidavit says.

Seattle police said today that while the investigation remains open, detectives have found discrepencies in the information about the alleged attack on Park.

Some of the witnesses who supported Park originally about the racial nature of the attack have recanted, said police spokesman Mark Amundson.

The bank-robbery charges alone might not negate the legitimacy of Park's claim of being a victim of racial harassment and assault. But Kevin Kane, the second friend who said he witnessed the attack, has revised his account.

Kane, 23, was with Park and Fritz on Oct. 26 in the 2200 block of First Avenue in Seattle and has recanted part of the story he told to corroborate Park's version, in which six young men, calling out racial names, swung baseball bats, a tire iron and a crowbar.

When the assault first came to light, Kane backed up Park's claim that the incident was reported to the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct headquarters a few hours later. But police had no record of an early report - fuel for those already outraged by the attack itself. Park said he filed a second report on Nov. 1.

Last night, however, Kane, a friend of Park's for years, said he recently told detectives he couldn't verify the initial report after all.

``I told them that I was not at the station when the report was filed and, as far as I was concerned, the story was a little more escalated than what actually happened,'' Kane said.

Detectives also have found that Park's truck, which he said was damaged by his attackers with baseball bats, may have been driven into a pole at another time, and that he didn't break his wrist as claimed but only bruised it, Amundson said.

Melded together, Park's earlier-stated version of events and the FBI's affidavit, if true, reveal an eventful few months:

-- Oct. 26: Park has said that, in the early-morning hours, he and Fritz and Kane left a First Avenue bar after his birthday celebration and were accosted by six white men in their 20s who ``called us racial names.'' Fritz said the attackers shoved him and Kane aside and fought with Park.

Park said he used his skill in karate and kung fu to repel the assault.

A crowd gathered, Park said, and some cheered the attackers, shouting, ``Brain the gook!''

After getting Park treatment for a broken hand, a bleeding scalp and other more minor injuries at Northwest Hospital, Kane initially said, he and Park went to report the incident at the East Precinct headquarters, where Seattle police seemed ``very nonchalant.''

-- Oct. 31: The Dollar Corners branch of First Independent Bank in Battle Ground was robbed of $4,595 by two men, one with dark glasses and the other wearing a motorcycle helmet, according to the FBI affidavit. A bank camera snapped pictures of the men. Tellers said both were armed.

-- Nov. 1: Park filed a second report with Seattle police, he said. This time, detectives interviewed him for several hours.

-- Nov. 14: Park spoke at the anti-hatred rally at UW's Red Square, sponsored by the Asian and Pacific Islander Student Union and widely covered by news media.

Said banners at the rally, aimed at getting the university to adopt an anti-harassment code: ``Justice for Darres Park.''

-- Nov. 27: The Battle Ground bank was robbed again, this time of $2,780, the FBI says. One man wore a fake mustache and brandished a pistol. The other was described as having a fake goatee and mustache and carried a shotgun. A teller said they appeared to be the same men who robbed the bank before. Again, the bank camera captured the robbery on film.

This time, the FBI says, a witness outside the bank who saw what was happening followed the men as they drove a Ford Mustang to a house later determined to be the residence of Park's parents, Dr. Harry C.S. Park and Lucille Park.

-- Nov. 29-Dec. 5: The FBI learned that Dr. Park's son, Darres, had reported being assaulted. Fritz's name was on the Seattle police report. Driver's license photos were compared to bank camera pictures.

-- Dec. 6: The Roosevelt branch of Seafirst Bank was robbed of $6,630 by two men with pistols. Fritz later said he and Park walked to Park's apartment and split the money, the FBI affidavit says.

-- Yesterday: FBI agents found the Mustang at the Park residence in Battle Ground and determined it was stolen from a Seattle woman.

Agents arrested Park at his apartment and say they found cash, some of it stained with dye; an explosive dye pack used to foil bank robberies; a fake mustache and beard; six loaded weapons and a silencer.

Fritz was arrested at his north Capitol Hill apartment. He gave no trouble, but was armed with a loaded semiautomatic pistol, the FBI said.

A bail hearing in U.S. District Court is scheduled for tomorrow. Park and Fritz are being held in a Seattle-area jail, said the U.S. Marshals office.

Bill Wassmuth, director of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harrassment, said today he was surprised to hear of Park's arrest.

But Wassmuth believes that the robbery and the alleged attack are separate issues. If there was an attack in Belltown based on race, ``I hope that it is investigated throughly and resolved.''

-- Times staff reporter Dave Birkland contributed to this report.