Police Beat: Brazen purse-snatcher no match for crowded Tacoma Mall

Staff writerOctober 26, 2013 

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

Oct. 20: Most shoplifters opt for a low profile, but the purse-snatcher announced himself with a roar.

Wearing a black mask, he walked into the Coach store at Tacoma Mall, strode to a clerk at a counter and screamed, “I’m gonna rob you … I’m gonna rob you.”

With that, he walked to the shelves and grabbed purses, slinging them over his shoulders. The clerk told him to stop. The snatcher kept snatching. Nine purses dangled from his arms.

Another clerk rushed to the main doors to close the exit. The snatcher ran, toppling tables and displays. He bumped the clerk at the door, knocked her down, hustled toward the mall’s main exit and cartoon-slammed into the motion-activated doors before they could open.

By now, several people were chasing him, according to the police report. The snatcher ran into the parking lot, but the crowd caught him. He dropped the purses and tried to flee. The crowd surrounded him.

An officer reached the scene in response to the dispatch call. He cuffed the snatcher and stowed him in a patrol car.

A records check showed the man was 32, with an arrest warrant out of King County. He carried a black plastic bag in his coat pocket, and slurred his words. He said he’d come from the Emerald Queen Casino, where he’d been drinking and gambling for the past few days. The officer booked him into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of second-degree robbery.

Oct. 20: When weather gets bad, the city of Tacoma sometimes blocks access to a section of East Fairbanks Street where the steep incline resembles a carnival slide.

Two officers dispatched on a call of possible car prowlers recognized the barricades almost as soon as they reached the 3500 block of East M Street. Two people were trying to flee in a black Chevrolet S10 pickup truck, but the driver stalled out when the vehicle turned onto the Fairbanks hill. The truck rolled backward and stopped as the patrol car arrived.

The driver was a 34-year-old woman. The passenger was her cousin, a 32-year-old man. Eight city barricades littered the truck bed.

The passenger said he was doing stupid stuff and he was sorry. He was going to strip the metal from the barricades and sell it, he said.

The driver said they’d just returned from the casino. They started grabbing the barricades. She couldn’t say why. It was stupid.

She said the truck belonged to her husband’s aunt. An officer ran a records check and got a hit: The driver had a suspended license and an outstanding arrest warrant for a prior suspended-license incident. Officers booked the driver and the passenger into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of second-degree theft.

Oct. 19: The odd chase pitted police officers against two transients on racing bikes weaving through the fog.

An officer on routine patrol cruised through the intersection of North Fourth and I streets, not far from Wright Park — an area known for prowl calls.

He saw a pair of cyclists in dark clothing, rolling slowly. As the patrol car approached, the cyclists wheeled away swiftly.

The officer followed and caught up near North J Street and Division Avenue. He flicked on the emergency lights.

One cyclist took a risk and tried to dart past the patrol car. The officer stepped out, snagged him and ordered the other cyclist to stop.

One cyclist was 47. The other was 24. Both said they were homeless, riding back to a friend’s place after a stop at the store.

Their bikes were fancy: a Cannondale and a Felt. The older guy had ID. The younger guy said he didn’t, and fidgeted. Abruptly, he turned and ran.

The officer quickly cuffed the older guy and called for backup.

The older guy had no active warrants and denied car-prowling; but he had a record of prior arrests for burglary. He said he didn’t know the younger guy and had just met him.

The officer cited the older guy for riding without a helmet, released him and started hunting. Soon enough, he spotted the younger guy walking on Division. The man tried to run again, but the officer was too quick.

The man tossed a glass pipe to the ground near the patrol car. The officer cuffed him and started moving him toward the back seat. Along the way, the guy tried to step on the pipe, but the officer pulled him away from it.

By this time, two more officers had arrived. The 24-year-old was stuck and he knew it. He said he ran away earlier because he had an active arrest warrant from the Department of Corrections.

For a while, he refused to give his name, but he relented after cooling down in the patrol car. The name came back with the warrant as described. The man said he was smoking meth — that was why he tried to step on the pipe.

An officer took the man to the Fife City Jail and booked him on the arrest warrant, as well as suspicion of possessing drug paraphernalia and obstructing a police officer.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486

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