J.B. Schutte, the general manager of the Vancouver Mall, said he’d never heard of the Proud Boys until recently and would rather not even mention the group’s name.
But after a dust-up involving a member of the far-right fraternal organization and a teenager that occurred this spring, he’s found himself spending time on politics that he’d rather be spending on mall management.
The mall has recently come under scrutiny after an African-American teenager, Mykel Mosley, was driven off in handcuffs in the back of a police car and accused of felony charges that were later dropped. A member of the Proud Boys who allegedly assaulted him, Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, walked free and hasn’t been accused or charged with a crime in connection with the incident.
Captured on video, the incident caught the attention of Portland-based social justice group Western States Center and an account was published in The Seattle Times. Earlier this month, Southwest Washington Communities United for Change, an informal activist group, organized a rally at Vancouver Mall with the stated purpose of holding its management accountable for how it responded.
Although the rally was canceled over concerns of a backlash, Schutte said that these groups have left out what he described as important facts, notably that mall security officers allegedly were punched by Mosley.
“My point is this, when you leave out those important facts, you inflame a base,” said Schutte.
Ophelia Noble, an organizer of the canceled rally, couldn’t be reached for comment. But Lindsay Schubiner, a program director at Western States Center, said that the focus should be on how adults responded to a situation where a teenager was allegedly chased and assaulted.
“I think there is reason to believe that with the Proud Boys there is a pattern of assaults on members of the community that are happening more frequently,” she said.
The Proud Boys group has been criticized for its perceived misogyny and white nationalism, as well as its ties to extremist groups. Schubiner referred to recent rallies held in Portland by Vancouver-based Patriot Prayer that were attended by Proud Boys and turned violent. She also mentioned other reported assaults by Toese (who didn’t respond to a request for comment.)
Vancouver City Councilor Ty Stober said that after the incident he met with mall manager Schutte. He said he’s concerned that people on “both ends of the political spectrum,” some outside of Vancouver, are using the incident to advance their narratives. He said the incident is more nuanced and complex than has previously been portrayed. He also said the Vancouver Police Department is continuing to investigate.
Although some of the details of the incident are disputed, here’s what seems clear: In May, Mykel Mosley, a teenager from Oregon, was with friends at the Vancouver Mall when he saw a pickup truck flying a Donald Trump flag. He got into a verbal altercation with the truck’s occupants, including Toese.
Since then, a video of the incident recorded by Mosley began circulating the internet. The video is incomplete, is divided into clips and its sequence isn’t clear. But it appears to begin with two men approaching Mosley. Taunting about a Donald Trump flag can be heard in the background and a man who appears to be Toese approaches Mosley, who runs away and raises his middle fingers.
Another clip shows several mall security officers arriving. One tersely ordered the group to “go.” Toese then charges at Mosley, who pushes him to the ground. The video shows the officers separating the two and restraining Mosley before letting him go.
A set of clips show Mosley with his shirt off. He tussles with officers, who keep telling the group to leave. What appears to be the next clip shows two officers on top of Mosley, handcuffing him. Toese appears to aid the officers, until one gestures for him to go away. He does.
From there, the scene becomes more chaotic with outraged bystanders approaching, one of whom allegedly struck an officer with his own radio. Eventually, the video shows Vancouver police arriving.
A version of the video posted to YouTube has nearly half a million views. Its viewers have drawn different interpretations.
‘Way out of proportion’
A wall in Schutte’s office at the Vancouver Mall is decorated with medals from his 21 years of service in the U.S. Army as well as accolades he’s received during his 23 years in retail management. He said the incident has “been blown way out of proportion.”
“It’s really bizarre that we want to make this one big event, when it was two idiots acting unacceptably,” he said.
At his desk, he read over the report of the incident written by the supervising security officer. The report states that on May 11 officers arrived on the edge of the mall’s property, where two groups were yelling at each other. Officers attempted to separate Mosley and Toese, who seemed intent on fighting, according to the report.
Schutte said that the report states that Mosley cursed at the officers and pushed them. The report states that Mosley took off his shirt and kept trying to approach Toese, who had gone back to the truck, to fight him. After being told to leave the parking lot, Mosley swung at officers and punched one in the nose, breaking his skin, according to the report. Schutte said another security officer was left with a goose egg on his head after a bystander took his radio and repeatedly struck him.
Schutte said that Facebook posts from witnesses back up this account. He added that the video supports the officer’s report. The video shows Mosley being restrained by officers after being charged by Toese. But Schutte said officers were trying to separate the two and the video shows officers letting him go. He also pointed out that the video doesn’t show officers’ interactions with Toese.
The video later shows Toese standing over officers arresting Mosley, but Schutte points out that he leaves at the officers’ request. Toese’s name doesn’t appear in the report because he left, said Schutte.
Toese’s involvement only came to light after he posted about it on Facebook. Schutte said he didn’t identify Toese until being contacted by The Seattle Times.
A police report of the incident, obtained through a public records request, doesn’t name Mosley, who was 17 at the time and is now 18. But it includes an account from a detained, unnamed juvenile who describing punching security officers after they picked him out of the group and “jumped on me.”
Schutte said that the whole time officers wanted the group of people, who have since been banned from the premises, to just leave.
Schubiner, of the Western States Center, faults mall security for failing to de-escalate the situation. She said officers allowed Mosley to be victimized by Toese, and pointed to the video showing Toese pushing Mosley while officers watch.
“So I think it’s understandable that Mykel would have been scared and confused and may have resisted mall security,” she said.
She also said that there were inconsistencies in the accounts of security officers that convinced Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik to dismiss the assault charges against Mosley.
Golik said a more notable inconsistency was the security officers’ report that Mosley punched Toese. He said that account doesn’t square with the video showing Toese pushing Mosley, who gets up and tries to run away, only to be tackled by the officers. He also said there is no video of Mosley punching security officers.
Golik said his decision to drop the charges was hastened after receiving a letter from the Western States Center calling his attention to it and providing videos of the incident. He added he’s grateful they reached out.
As for possible charges against Toese, Golik said he’s referred the case to the Vancouver city attorney, who didn’t return a call for comment. “I was shocked that they dismissed (charges against Mosley),” said Schutte, who still accepts the decision. “I’m guessing there was political influence.”
Mosley didn’t respond to a request for an interview. But his mother, Shala Juan Mosley, said, “Why wouldn’t the charges be dropped if my son was not guilty?”
‘Anyone any good’
Schubiner said the mall should review its procedures and consider disciplining its officers.
Schutte said he doesn’t see a need and that he trusts his officers. He also pointed out that his security officers are more diverse than the city of Vancouver’s demographics.
Since the incident, he’s met with representatives from the local NAACP and League of United Latin American Citizens and hopes that there won’t be a rally held outside the mall, which he described as a place for shopping, dining and entertainment. He said that the rally would inflame the situation and would just elevate extremists on both sides.
“I don’t think elevating hate or extremist groups does anyone any good,” he said.