Police Beat: Rail yard ‘art project’ evidence all there in black and white

Staff writerMay 3, 2014 

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

April 29: Asked if he spray-painted the tanker car, the Oregonian said he thought he was in Seattle, not Tacoma.

He was 23. He said he rode the train up from Portland. He said he didn’t spray-paint anything and that he hadn’t touched any paint recently.

That didn’t match the story from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe employee, who said he saw the Oregonian paint the tanker and throw down a spray can. The employee had picked it up. The color: white. The label: “Ivory Silk.”

He handed the can to the police officers called to the scene at the rail yard on East 21st Street. One officer finger-tested the white streaks on the rail car. They smeared.

The other officer cuffed the Oregonian and told him he was under arrest. He pointed out that the man had fresh paint on his hands: white and black.

The man said that was because he did an art project in Oregon with his girlfriend.

Going through the man’s pockets, the officer found the lid of a spray paint can. The color: white. The man had a marker in his other pocket. The color: black.

The Oregonian said he used the spray can lid as a water dish for his dog. He denied painting anything.

Prior records from the rail yard said the man had been stopped there before, in 2009. The officer took the man to the Pierce County Jail and booked him on suspicion of criminal trespassing and malicious mischief.

April 28: The shoplifting call started with an odd choice of merchandise and ended with an identity hunt.

The customer walked into the Target store in the 3300 block of South 23rd Street about 3:20 p.m. He selected a baby’s rocking seat, took it to a check stand, “returned” it for a gift card and headed for home appliances. He picked out a vacuum cleaner and a carpet steamer, loaded both items into his shopping cart and headed for the exit.

Two security officers stopped him and brought him back inside. The man was 36, with two gold caps on his front teeth. He also carried a pair of MP3 players he hadn’t paid for.

Police officers arrived, arrested the man and interviewed him.

He carried a Mexican Matricula Consular card — a piece of identification that theoretically denotes a Mexican national living outside the country. The card listed the man’s age as 40.

He said he was kitchen manager at a local restaurant. He said he’d never had U.S. identification, but had been living in Washington and California for the past 20 years.

Officers ran a records check on the man’s name. They found no warrants and no driver’s license. They looked at his car: a 1990 Ford Bronco, black, with a smashed steering column.

Officers took the man to the Fife City Jail and booked him on suspicion of third-degree theft. They left, kept checking records and found a possible address in Des Moines. That led to a Washington state driver’s license, a different name and a different birthdate — but this name had active arrest warrants out of the cities of Auburn and Lakewood.

One of the Lakewood reports described a man with two gold-capped front teeth and a black Ford Bronco. Officers sent an alert to Fife Jail staffers, who amended the booking information.

April 26: Two officers were hunting a suspected burglar, and another was stopping a suspected drunken driver. The stories met at the same suspect.

The burglary call came in at 4:30 a.m., from an apartment complex in the 3200 block of South Durango Street. Residents said the culprit was a woman; they described her as “extremely drunk.”

About 4:45 a.m., an officer at the intersection of South Center Street and Union Avenue saw a red Hyundai blow through a red light. The car pulled a wide U-turn on Center Street, reversed course and halted traffic. The officer flicked on his lights and pulled behind the car.

The driver stopped at Center and Union. The light turned green. The car didn’t move. The officer, over his loudspeaker, ordered the driver to pull into a nearby gas station. The driver parked next to the gas pumps.

She was 22, with strawberry blonde hair. She wore a long shirt and no shoes. She lit a cigarette and started crying.

The officer asked her if she was OK. She said she’d had a bad couple of months. He asked for her name. She gave it, along with a birthdate. The officer asked more questions. The woman started yelling at him. He called for backup.

The two officers chasing the burglary call responded and drove to the gas station. The woman matched the description neighbors had given.

One officer asked the woman what happened at the apartments.

“They stole my wallet and pills,” the woman said, though she used extra adjectives.

The officers smelled liquor. They asked for her identification. She said it was stolen.

They asked her for basic information about her identity and address. The woman answered with a curse, called the officer a stupid pig, among other things, and told him to “eat a doughnut.”

The officer ordered the woman to get out of the car. She refused several times, according to the report. The officer took hold of her wrist. She stepped out and didn’t fight. He cuffed her.

He asked if she would take a breath test. The woman refused. He told her she was under arrest. He put her in the patrol car. She entered on her stomach.

The second officer walked to the other side of the car and asked if she needed help. She told him what he could do. A few minutes later, she sat up and got sick all over the back seat. Officers took her to the Pierce County Jail and booked her on suspicion of drunken driving and second-degree burglary.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486

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