Police Beat: No time for water tank vandals to watch paint dry

Staff writerFebruary 8, 2014 

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

Feb. 6: The giant green water tank was a tempting target.

The three rogue painters walked toward it, carrying buckets and rollers. They’d parked at a nearby church in the 2400 block of South Orchard Street. It was about 1 p.m. on a clear, cold day.

Two officers answered the dispatch call: a church worker saw the trio of young men with painting gear, parking at the church and walking toward the tank, owned by the city of Tacoma.

Officers spotted a red car in the lot, a 2001 Infiniti. Peeking into the windows, they noticed paint rollers wrapped in plastic.

The green tank stood next to a taller silver tower, labeled FIRCREST. A chain link fence topped with concertina wire ringed the site. The two officers aimed for the north side of the fence line. One officer, slightly ahead of the other, spotted a kid in a gray hoodie and a paint-spattered teal jacket.

Eyes locked. The kid ran.

“Stop! Police!” the officer shouted. “Stop running!”

The kid didn’t stop. He crashed away through thick brush. The officer followed and found a hole in the fence, cut wide enough for a slip-through.

The paint gear piled near the towers: cans and rollers. A fresh white streak, still wet, gleamed on the side of the green tank.

The officers called for backup. One backtracked, stopped in the brush and hunkered down, watching for the fleeing painters. He heard someone clambering through the thicket.

A little way off, he saw the kid in the teal jacket and his two friends. The officer inched closer. A kid in a black hoodie turned and saw him.

“Tacoma Police! Stop where you are!” the officer shouted. The three teens ran. One split away from the other two. He wore a black jacket with yellow stripes and a hoodie marked HARVARD.

The officer chased. The kid in the Harvard hoodie got tired, dropped to the ground and sat. The officer cuffed him.

Near the church parking lot, backup arrived. An officer spotted the other two teens running toward the back side of the building. Told to hit the ground, they hit it, and got cuffed.

Two of the painters were 18. One was 19. They said they understood their rights. They didn’t want to answer any questions. Officers booked them into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of second-degree burglary and obstructing.

Feb. 4: The convenience store customer was a regular, but on this visit, he carried a kitchen knife and a three-foot piece of rebar.

The clerk didn’t like the look of that. He told the man to leave. The man, a 20-year-old transient, flipped the bird and walked out. It was 2:20 a.m.

Standing outside, the man started slamming a garbage can with the rebar. The clerk called police. Officers rolled to the 9400 block of Pacific Avenue.

When they arrived, they saw the man standing at the store’s front window, waving the knife. An officer yelled at him to drop it.

The man turned and mumbled, holding the knife in one hand, the rebar in the other. He started walking. The officer told him to stop. He kept walking.

The officer followed, inching along in a patrol car, lights flashing. A second officer joined the slow-motion pursuit. Both got out of their cars. One drew a stun gun. The other covered with a handgun.

“Stop!” one officer yelled.

The man turned.

“Drop the knife!”

The man raised the knife to the left side of his head.

“I can put it right here,” he said.

Long seconds passed.

The man dropped the knife. He was still holding the rebar. Officers told him to drop it. He dropped it at his feet – well within reach.

Officers closed in. The man crossed his arms in front of his chest. They grabbed his arms. He tensed up. They took him down and cuffed him.

The man said he didn’t need medical aid. He wouldn’t answer more questions. He sat silently in the patrol car. Officers booked him into the Fife City Jail on suspicion of unlawful use of a weapon and obstructing.

Feb. 2: The ghost house was a foreclosure – forsaken, stray possessions left inside, windows boarded. The owner was dead.

A neighbor in the 1400 block of North Prospect Street looked out the window and noticed two men checking out the empty house. One stood in front and watched. The other tried the fence gate, which was locked. The two men walked around the back, toward the garden shed. The neighbor saw one of them lean a ladder against the side of the house.

Two officers alerted to the prowlers drove to the address. They spotted one man, the taller of the two, walking a bike out of the back yard. The man was 27, and gave no trouble.

The second man, still inside, was 32 and shorter. Officers saw him running toward the back of the house. They waited for him at the bottom of the ladder. He didn’t fight.

The shorter man said his sister used to live in the house, and he was just getting some of his clothes. The taller man carried a backpack full of power tools, locks and a set of shaved keys. Why did he have shaved keys?

“I collect things,” the man said.

Officers booked both men into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of residential burglary.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486

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