In less than an hour, three teens allegedly stole two cars in Tacoma and shot a man with an assault rifle in a quest to find enough gas to drive to Seattle.
Two of the boys, who are not being identified because they are charged as juveniles, are being held at Remann Hall Juvenile Detention.
Samuel Mealeaga, 17, is the only one charged as an adult. He pleaded not guilty Tuesday to first-degree robbery, first-degree attempted murder and theft of a motor vehicle. He was ordered jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Pierce County prosecutors allege the two charged as juveniles stole an assault rifle from a home days before the string of carjackings Oct. 5.
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The first 911 call came about 9:20 that night. A man reported his Ford Expedition had been stolen from outside his home while he left the vehicle running to charge its battery.
Then a woman called at 9:45 p.m. to say three teens accosted her as she returned home, stealing her purse and her Jeep Liberty. She told dispatchers one of the boys carried an assault rifle.
Two fled in her Jeep; the third drove away in a Ford Expedition.
Ten minutes later, a frantic woman called for help outside her East Tacoma home.
Her date had just dropped her off when he was shot inside his car. He later told police he was starting his car when an SUV blocked him in and he saw a gun pointed at him from the back seat.
The man said he reached for a handgun he kept under his seat but was shot first.
Detectives identified the unidentified juveniles as suspects and took them into custody. The SUVs later were found abandoned.
Mealeago is not believed to be involved in the theft of the rifle or Ford Expedition but did help dump the Expedition, according to charging papers. He also is believed to have been driving when one of the other boys shot the man outside the East Tacoma house.
The teens told police they wanted to go to Seattle but were low on gas so they stole the Jeep Liberty, court records show. Realizing they still didn’t have enough gas, the teens noticed a car idling outside an East Tacoma home but didn’t see the driver inside until they’d pulled up beside it.
“They did not think there was a driver in the car initially ...” court records state. “The driver appeared to be reaching for a firearm, so (one of the teens) shot him with the rifle.”