Police Beat: He just wanted his lawn mower, and maybe some stolen tools

Staff writerOctober 5, 2013 

Editor’s note: compiled from reports to Tacoma police.

Sept. 30: The man called himself a scraper. He wouldn’t say much more.

The scraper was 54 with a scraggly beard, clad in black from head to foot. The description came from a woman who caught him hammering the lock on her shed with a brick.

The woman asked the scraper what he was doing. The scraper said he was trying to get his lawn mower back from someone named Jim.

The woman said Jim didn’t live here and that the scraper needed to leave. The scraper started yelling. He was carrying a bottle of liquor. The woman said she was going to call police.

The scraper yelled at her and walked away.

An officer drove to the woman’s house in the 800 block of East 57th Street, listened to the story and started looking around. Eventually he spotted a figure in an alley. The description fit; a man about 5 feet 8, wispy beard, dressed all in black. The man was carrying what looked like a plastic toolbox. He spotted the officer, put the box down and walked away.

The officer caught up. The man said he was a scraper.

He denied being at the woman’s house. He denied using a brick to hammer the lock. Then he said he was looking for a lawn mower.

The officer cuffed him and asked if he had any weapons.

“I don’t know,” the scraper said. “You figure it out.”

The officer frisked him and found an Allen wrench, a pair of pliers, another wrench, a glove, a green box cutter, a folding knife, six drug pipes and a full bottle of vodka.

The scraper wouldn’t answer any questions. A second officer arrived and looked at the plastic toolbox left behind in the alley. A nearby homeowner said it was hers; the box and the power saw inside came from her garage.

Officers checked recent reports and found a series of burglaries in the area. The scraper had an active warrant for his arrest and a prior conviction for burglary. The officers booked him into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of second-degree burglary, possession of burglary tools and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Sept. 29: The car prowlers gave weak excuses.

They drove a beat-up 1994 Chevrolet Suburban long past the showroom stage. An officer found them in the 1900 block of East 65th Street shortly before midnight.

The dispatch call came from a homeowner who said someone was breaking into her brother’s truck. The prowlers had backed out of the driveway in an SUV with no lights.

The officer found the Suburban nearby going backwards, with no lights. He hit it with a spotlight. Two men inside ducked down and scrabbled.

The officer called for backup and walked up to the car. The two men inside were young — the driver was 26, the passenger 19.

The officer looked at the steering column. A rag covered it. The officer asked the driver to remove it. The steering column was in pieces, along with the ignition.

The officer asked what the rag was for. The driver said he was using it to shine up the dashboard.

That didn’t wash with the officer; the Suburban was in dismal shape.

The driver said it was no big deal that he’d broken into the truck; it belonged to his uncle, and he was just trying to get some gas.

The driver was holding some small tools: flat screwdrivers and an ice pick. The officer cuffed the driver and the passenger.

The driver said the house with the truck belonged to his grandmother and the truck belonged to his uncle, who was always taking stuff from the driver.

“My uncle’s a baller,” the driver said. “He’s always got money in his truck and change in his cup holder.”

A second officer arrived and spoke to witnesses. The woman who called police said the driver was a relative with a penchant for stealing the family’s stuff and scamming relatives for money. Officers booked the driver and the passenger into the Fife City Jail on suspicion of vehicle prowling.

Sept. 28: The call came in as a threat with a shotgun. Two officers rolled to the 1400 block of East 55th Street.

The witness, a 57-year-old woman, said she heard a loud argument on the front porch. She left her bedroom, walked out front and saw two men in a white SUV. One was pointing what looked like a shotgun.

The son, 33, said he’d been standing in his driveway talking on the phone when the two men drove by and gave him a dirty look. The SUV circled the block and came back, this time pulling into the driveway. The driver shouted a challenge to a fight. The passenger handed a double-barreled gun to the driver, who pointed it at the son and threatened to shoot him in front of his mother.

The mother, arriving on the porch at this point, shouted at the men to leave and said she’d called police.

The son said he knew the men; they all grew up together. He knew the car; it belonged to his ex-girlfriend. The driver was dating her now, the son said.

Officers headed for the ex-girlfriend’s address. On the way, they spotted the white SUV, a 1997 Ford Expedition. The plate matched the ex-girlfriend’s address. They flicked on the emergency lights and flagged the car down.

Two men were inside. The driver was 32, the passenger 30. The driver admitted going over to the son’s house and arguing.

“We’re fighting over a girl,” he said — but the argument was verbal, no more.

What about the gun?

The driver said there was no gun.

“I am a convicted felon and I am not supposed to have a weapon,” he said.

The passenger told a different story. He’d ridden along with his friend, the driver. The driver was fighting with the other guy over a woman. Yes, the driver had a gun and pointed it.

Where was the gun now?

Not in the car, the passenger said; the driver hid it in the couch at the girlfriend’s house.

The passenger said he was a convicted felon, too; wasn’t supposed to be around guns.

Two more officers, called for backup, drove to the girlfriend’s house. She gave her consent to search the house. Officers found the gun under the couch cushions in the rec room. It was a .22-caliber revolver with six rounds and two barrels, perhaps easy to mistake for a shotgun at a distance.

Officers booked the driver and the passenger into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of unlawful gun possession and intimidation with a weapon.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486

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