Police Beat: An angry soldier, a pushy clerk, and a man named Satan

Staff writerNovember 2, 2013 

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

Oct. 26: The drunken soldier decided to fight the cops. The outcome was predictable.

The dispatch call started as a domestic complaint. The caller said a man and a woman had been arguing loudly for hours. Three officers drove to an apartment complex in the 2400 block of South 41st Street and scouted the lobby.

They found a woman hiding in a corner. She said she was the one who called police. She was afraid of the people on the fourth floor. They’d been yelling and fighting all day.

Officers headed for the elevator. Two men stepped out of a hallway. Officers asked if they knew anything about the ruckus on the fourth floor. The men said they were leaving a party. They said they were active-duty soldiers and refused to answer any more questions.

Both were intoxicated. One was angrier than the other. He was 26. He yelled about combat deployments, constitutional rights and police authority. His fellow soldier tried to hold him back; no good. The angry soldier said he was a staff sergeant. He wouldn’t name his unit. He said police had no right to talk to him.

Officers told the soldier to take his friend and leave. The soldier said he didn’t have to. As officers tried to enter the elevator, he got in their way. The other officers told the soldier to step back, and they entered the elevator.

The soldier stuck an arm in the closing doors, holding the elevator, and kept yelling. Two officers stepped out and told him he was under arrest.

“This is not going to happen,” the soldier said. He flailed, broke free and raised his arms. Flecks of spit dripped from his mouth, according to the report.

One officer drew a stun gun and ordered the soldier to stop. The soldier yelled and clenched his fists.

The officer fired a bolt. The soldier went down. The officers closed in and cuffed him. The soldier yelled at them to take the cuffs off and followed with a profane threat.

During the commotion, the apartment manager walked into the lobby and asked what was going on. The manager said the tenants had been causing problems for months but that she was afraid to do anything about it.

Officers spoke to the soldier’s wife. She said her husband had returned from a deployment in January. He’d been angry ever since, she said — drinking and blacking out, though he hadn’t assaulted her.

Officers took the soldier to St. Joseph Medical Center for medical treatment, where he started to argue with the staff. The soldier was cited for obstructing a police officer and was ordered to appear at an upcoming court hearing.

Oct. 27: For once, the clerk pitched a fit instead of the customer.

It didn’t sound like that at first; the dispatch call said a man had punched a clerk in the face at a convenience store in the 2500 block of North Alder Street. Two officers drove to the scene.

The clerk was 24. She said the customer, a young man with a shaved head, came in and tried to buy a pair of grape-flavored cigars. The clerk said she asked for ID and the customer wouldn’t give it. Instead, she said, “He gave me attitude.”

The customer provided ID, she said, but yelled at the clerk about it. The clerk said she pointed to the door and told the customer to leave. He wouldn’t go, so she came out from behind the counter and shoved him out the door.

She said the customer “swung on me,” and “it was on.” The customer punched her in the face and tried to leave, she said, but she followed to stop him, grabbed him, and he threw her down, so she spat at him and went back inside to call police.

The customer was 20. He told a different story. He said he came in to buy the cigars, but the clerk refused to sell them. The man said he was old enough to buy them and showed his ID. Then the clerk came around the counter, started pushing him out the door and spat in his face.

Officers took a look at the security camera video. On the screen, the customer came in, put his wallet on the counter, showed his ID and bought the cigars. It looked like he had a quick exchange with the clerk before he headed for the door.

On the video, the clerk leaned over the counter and said something. The customer walked back in. The pair appeared to argue. The clerk walked out from behind the counter, grabbed the customer by the shirt and shoved him toward the door.

The officers saw no sign that the clerk had pointed to the door. They saw no punches to the face, and no aggression from the customer.

The clerk had no apparent injuries. Based on the two conflicting stories and the security footage, they decided she was the aggressor and cited her for misdemeanor assault. They also spoke to the store manager, who said the clerk had a history of arguments and physical confrontations with customers.

Oct. 28: The drummer claimed to be the devil and the lead percussionist for Led Zeppelin. He practiced paradiddles on the back windshield of a neighbor’s car.

The call started as a vandalism report in the 4600 block of North 33rd Street. A second dispatch call came in around the same time. The drummer was on the line, telling the dispatcher he was thinking of killing his neighbor. He also claimed to have grenades, machine guns, assault rifles and a bazooka.

A group of Tacoma and Ruston officers drove to the scene. The drummer was standing in front of his house, holding the metal bar he’d used to attack the neighbor’s car. When he saw the officers, he ran inside and shut the door.

Officers didn’t enter immediately. They spoke to neighbors, who said the drummer had a long history of threats and aggressive behavior. One man said the drummer shouted curses as he bashed the car window and yelled, “I am the devil.” Another said the drummer had shouted, “I’m going to kill everyone.”

One neighbor had warned the drummer he was calling the cops. The drummer said he’d kill them, too.

A minor standoff followed. One officer spoke to the drummer over the phone for about 40 minutes. The drummer wouldn’t come out. Sometimes he laughed, sometimes he swore. He said a neighbor was out to get him. He said he was the lead drummer for Led Zeppelin, but he’d changed his name to Satan. He insisted on playing “Over the Hills and Far Away,” one of the band’s lesser-known tunes.

The officer listened and heard nothing but drums and yelling.

Officers left for a short time, but then another 911 call came in. The drummer was back outside, threatening the neighbors again. Officers knocked on his door. The drummer came out this time. He denied threatening anyone or damaging any property.

His house reeked of marijuana, which filled a bowl on the table. Empty beer cans littered the floor.

Officers booked him into the Fife City Jail on suspicion of malicious mischief and harassment. The police report added a warning regarding the drummer’s potential mental illness:

“(Suspect) is clearly a threat to society and especially his neighbors that surround his residence. His mental state is unstable, and he cannot control his actions. His threatening behavior, statements, verbal obscenities and carrying of weapons in public is a clear indication that he is a high-risk threat to citizens and police officers. It is highly recommended that (he) is given a full mental health evaluation.”

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486

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