Police Beat: Passengers discover hidden cost of ‘free’ taxi ride

Staff writerMarch 22, 2014 

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

March 17: The two women convinced themselves the second cab ride was free. The cab driver wasn’t happy.

One woman was 36, with a ponytail. The other was 18 and five months pregnant. The driver was 57 and annoyed.

Officers drove to a burger joint in the 5500 block of Pacific Avenue and sorted out the mess. The two women ate chicken nuggets and fries. The driver chewed on anger.

The women had called for a cab at South 15th and Oakes streets and ridden to University Place to get money. They got it and paid the driver $35. They wanted a ride to a friend’s house on Tacoma’s east side, but they wanted to bring another friend along. Over the phone, they decided to meet at the burger joint.

The driver steered to the spot and demanded the rest of the fare. The women were surprised; they thought the second trip was free. The driver said it wasn’t. The women gave him more money — all they had, they said — but it wasn’t enough. The driver called police.

An officer told the women no rational adult would expect a free ride in a taxi. Did they think a judge would see things their way?

“No,” the women said — but they had no money left.

The officer cited them for third-degree theft and released them on the spot. The driver said he was still owed $18.

The officer said he cited the women but that he couldn’t do anything about the money. The driver growled that it was all a waste of time.

March 17: The dispatch call was a perennial classic — unknown trouble.

The caller said someone was knocking on the front door and scuffling at the side of the house, but she couldn’t see anyone. Her dog was barking.

Officers drove to the 1200 block of South Ridgewood Avenue. They found a 41-year-old woman and a 19-year-old man standing in the front yard — the residents. They said they’d been sleeping when they heard someone shaking the handle of the front door, and a voice saying, “Dude, door’s open, we could just walk in.”

The dog had started yipping, and the prowlers left. Three of them, the woman said. One was wearing red.

Where did the prowlers go?

The 19-year-old pointed and sang out, “There they are!”

A block away, three young men were walking. The officer called for backup.

Two officers stopped the trio and started talking. The boys were 18, 17 and 15. The oldest wore a red backpack. As one officer started to explain why the boys were being stopped, the 18-year-old took off.

He zigzagged through the afternoon traffic on South Sprague Avenue. Tires squealed as drivers tried not to hit the running teen.

Officers followed, chasing him to an apartment on South Eighth Street. Dispatchers checked the address and found a phone number for the teen’s grandmother. She and the boy’s mother soon arrived.

The officer described the running boy.

“Yup, that’s my son,” the mother said. She offered to call him out of the apartment, but he walked out on his own a moment later.

The officer told the teen he was under arrest for obstructing a police officer. The teen said he and the other two teens were looking for a friend at the house on Ridgewood.

Why did he run? The teen said he was afraid.

Officers released the other two boys to their families. Checking the story further, they asked the woman at the Ridgewood address if the mysterious friend lived there. The woman said no — the friend had wanted to stay there, but the woman had refused to allow it. She added that the teens had no business coming to her house to find him.

March 16: The gun story backfired. It started with a report of a man claiming to be a cop and waving a weapon in a hotel lobby.

Officers drove to the 8400 block of South Hosmer Street. They found a cluster of people in the parking lot. Aided by the group, one man, 28, was holding a woman, also 28, who struggled to get away from him. The two were married.

Where was the man with the gun?

“He’s in there,” a man said, pointing to the hotel lobby.

Two officers walked inside and spoke to a man and a woman who were checking in at the front desk. The man was 31.

Did he have a gun?

He did. The man raised his arms, revealing a loaded 9 mm handgun at his waist. Officers cuffed the man, took the gun and ran a records check. The man had a concealed-carry permit and proof of ownership.

The man said he and the woman arrived at the hotel earlier and saw the couple outside, fighting. The husband was shoving his wife against the side of the building.

The 31-year-old said a man shouldn’t put his hands on a woman that way. The group started yelling at him, he said. He walked back to his car and picked up his gun, and walked into the hotel.

Had he pointed the gun at anyone?

No, the man said.

How did the crowd know he was carrying it?

The man said they might have seen it when he raised his hands as he walked by.

Had he described himself as a law enforcement officer?

No, the man said.

Meanwhile, more officers were sorting through statements in the parking lot. The husband said he and his wife and a few friends had been drinking in the hotel bar and started to leave when the stranger pulled a gun on them.

Had the husband pushed his wife against the building?

The husband said his wife was drunk. He and his friends were trying to get her to go inside, to her hotel room. He denied assaulting her.

The wife sat on the ground, crying. The liquor on her breath was thick. She said she hadn’t been assaulted. She said the stranger pointed a gun at her for no reason.

The officer walked back inside to talk to the hotel clerk. The clerk said she never saw the stranger pull a gun and didn’t know he had one.

At that moment, three firefighters escorted the wife into the lobby. She saw the stranger and lunged toward him, screaming a curse.

Two officers stepped in to break up the confrontation. One told the woman to stop. Instead, she lunged again, swung an arm and hit one of the officers in the shoulder.

The skirmish ended with handcuffs. Officers put the woman in a patrol car. They ordered the rest of the group to leave the hotel area. They released the 31-year-old and booked the wife into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of third-degree assault. County prosecutors subsequently dropped the charge to fourth-degree assault.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486; sean.robinson@thenewstribune.com; @seanrobinsonTNT

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