Police Beat: Liquor thief tripped up

Staff writerJanuary 11, 2014 

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

Jan. 5: The would-be liquor thief had plenty of nerve. Grace was another story.

Shortly before midnight, he walked into a grocery store in the 1300 block of South 38th Street, snagged three bottles of booze and tried to flee through a locked sliding door. The alarm rang; the thief sprinted for the other exit.

A clerk tried to stop him. The thief pushed him out of the way, rushed through the open doors, tripped and face-planted, shattering the bottles against his chest.

The clerk called police. The man ran. A few minutes later, he returned to the store with a soaked shirt and a complaint: he’d fled through a backyard, and a homeowner had pulled a gun and threatened him.

The clerk told the man to stay put; the police were coming. The man ran away again, pulling the sliding doors open.

Officers headed for the scene spotted the running man, recognized the description, arrested him and brought him to the store. The clerk said this was the guy.

The man was 20. His shirt was wet and his hands were bleeding. He said he understood his rights. He blasted the officers with profanity, and shouted “attorney” three times. Officers booked him into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of second-degree robbery.

Jan. 4: It was almost closing time at the bank near Tacoma Mall. Just before the doors shut, a woman walked in and tried to cash a check for $1,000.

The bank teller didn’t like the look of the check. The listed account holder was a church in Burien. She made a phone call and learned the check had been stolen from a mail drop two weeks earlier.

A Tacoma police officer working off-duty security at the bank talked to the woman with the stolen check. She was 28. She said her mother-in-law gave her the check to help pay bills – but she wouldn’t give her mother-in-law’s name.

After more questions, she changed her story: some people she didn’t know in a Camaro got the check from her mother-in-law and gave it to the woman. Asked why she’d take a check from strangers, and how they would have gotten a check from her mother-in-law, the woman said she didn’t ask questions. Then she gave her mother-in-law’s name.

The officer called the Burien church. No one recognized the mother-in-law’s name. The stolen check was supposed to pay a utility bill. It had been stolen from a drop box.

The officer checked the car the woman was driving, and the registration. She called a phone number and spoke to a woman who said she was the mother-in-law – but the name was different. The mother-in-law said she didn’t know anything about a check, and knew no one at the Burien church.

The officer booked the woman into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of possession of stolen property.

Jan. 4: Carrying your brother’s ID might sound like a good way to confuse the cops – unless your brother is a convicted felon serving a prison stint.

The call started in routine fashion just after midnight: two officers were on patrol, rolling past a grocery store in the 1600 block of 72nd Street East. They saw a white 1993 Lexus pull out of the parking lot with no headlights.

The Lexus turned onto Portland Avenue and booked, going too fast. The officers followed and flicked on the emergency lights. The Lexus turned onto East 68th Street and abruptly pulled over.

The 30-year-old driver stepped out. The officer told him to stop and get back in the car. The man said he had to go to the bathroom; why did the officer stop him?

The officer asked for a license, registration and proof of insurance.

“Come on man, this is my mom’s car – she lives here,” the driver said.

The officer asked for the license and registration again. The driver handed him a state ID card and the registration.

“There’s no insurance,” he said.

The officer asked for a license instead of a state ID card.

“I don’t have a license,” the driver said. “I’ve never had a license.”

Then why drive?

“It’s too dangerous to be walking,” the driver said.

The officer ran a records check, keeping half an eye on the driver and his passenger, a 29-year-old woman.

In the car, the driver shifted from side to side, and leaned forward; a furtive move.

The records check came back – the driver had two active warrants for his arrest. The officer told him.

“Wait, wait, wait – it isn’t me,” the driver said. “I don’t have warrants. I gave you my brother’s ID.”

Meanwhile, a 55-year-old woman walked out of a nearby house.

“Officer – officer,” the woman said. “What’s going on with my son and my car?”

The officer explained. The woman’s son had warrants for his arrest.

“That’s not him,” the woman said. “That’s his brother. He’s in prison, in Yakima.”

The officer sorted out the mix-up. The mother gave her son’s real name. The officer checked records again, and found a different warrant. He told the mother her son was still under arrest, but she could take her car in a few minutes.

In the midst of explaining, the officer looked into the Lexus again, and spotted a bullet on the floor. He asked the mother for permission to search the car. The mother gave it.

Under a carpet flap above the gas pedal, the officer found a silver handgun, a baggie of crystalline stuff, and a syringe.

The driver pleaded ignorance.

“That ain’t my gun,” he said. “I don’t carry guns.”

A few minutes later, caught in a lie, the driver recanted.

“Ok, that’s my gun,” he said

The female passenger said the driver was her boyfriend. She saw him stash the gun under the carpet flap. Officers booked him into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion unlawful gun possession and drug possession.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486

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