Police beat: A wily winelifter, texts and punches and the perils of leaving the seat up

Editor’s note: Compiled from reports to Tacoma police and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

April 1: The winelifter was wily, but his taste for high-end vino finally tripped him up.

Employees at the Metropolitan Market in Tacoma’s Proctor District knew him well: a middle-aged man, slightly built, not that distinctive. The winelifter was a regular.

His method was simple: Stroll in, pick up a reusable bag, wander through the liquor aisles, pick his favored vintage, wander through other parts of the store and slip out.

The routine had played for several months, growing more and more frequent. The winelifter started stopping by every week for refills. Employees guessed what the man was doing, but he had a gift for vanishing.

He returned on a Sunday morning, selected a reusable bag and bee-lined to his favorite aisle. After a bit of browsing, he chose three bottles: two in the $50 range, one priced at $23. He stowed them in the bag, ambled through other sections, walked past the check stands and headed out the door, aiming for a gold 2007 Hyundai Accent.

This time an employee was too quick for him. She jumped his route, intercepted him before he could escape and escorted him to the loss prevention office.

A Tacoma police officer responded to the 911 call and picked the man up with no trouble. The winelifter, 58, had an active arrest warrant for third-degree theft. The officer booked him into the Pierce County Jail on the warrant, adding a new theft count for good measure.

April 3: Apparently, the neighbor wasn’t amused by her friend’s joke about having a job.

The dispatch call reported an assault at an apartment complex. A woman said a neighbor had beaten and bitten her.

A Tacoma police officer drove to the 700 block of North Second Street and spoke to the woman, 21, who told a story. She said she and her boyfriend were taking out the trash when the neighbor walked over and started talking smack.

“You never hang out with me anymore,” the neighbor reportedly said.

“Sorry, I work,” the woman replied.

“You only work part-time.”

That started the argument, then the fight, the woman said. She said the neighbor threw her down, sat on top of her, pulled her hair and bit her arm.

The officer looked at the woman’s arm and saw a bite mark. He spoke to the woman’s boyfriend, who echoed the story.

The officer interviewed the neighbor, 22, who told a different story. The other woman had been texting her and calling her a whore, the neighbor said. She followed with more texts, saying, “I thought you were hard,” and “fight me.”

The neighbor said her boyfriend tried to talk to the woman and the other boyfriend to work things out. When the couples met outside, the boyfriends told the women to “hug it out.”

The neighbor said she was willing to try, but as she stepped forward, the woman said, “Hell no,” and smacked her in the face. That was how the fight started.

The neighbor said she didn’t bite the woman. The officer looked her over and saw a scratch near her eye. The neighbor’s boyfriend backed up the story, and said the other woman threw the first punch. He said he and the other boyfriend separated the pair.

The officer made a judgment call and arrested both women. They were booked into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of fighting in public.

April 5: Sometimes, it’s just smarter to live with the rules and put the toilet seat down.

The dispatch call reported a domestic dispute with physical violence. Two Pierce County sheriff’s deputies drove to an address in the 400 block of South 120th Street in Parkland.

First they spoke to a 33-year-old man who said his roommate, 66, got mad at him for leaving the seat up in the downstairs bathroom.

The man said he was making food when the roommate got mad and started slamming items on the kitchen countertops. The man said he left the kitchen and went to the bathroom.

The roommate followed, he said, and pushed through the door. The man yelled at him to stop.

That started the wrestling match. The roommate took the man down, and both men grappled on the floor. The man said he hit the roommate in self-defense, and might have banged his head on the tank. The man said he got away and called 911.

Deputies looked the man over. He had a bump on his head and a few scrapes on his leg and shoulder.

They spoke to the roommate, who was reluctant to talk at first. He said he was just trying to get to the bedroom, and the bathroom was the only way through. He said the younger man blocked him and pushed him, and they wrestled. The roommate said he was the one who called 911.

Deputies looked the roommate over. His shirt was ripped, and he had a bruised eye.

Both men declined medical aid. The deputies compared the stories. The men blamed each other. The younger man was animated, possibly a bit drunk. The older man was calm, and didn’t want the younger man arrested. The pair had known each other for eight years.

The decision: Both men were arrested. They were taken (separately) to the Pierce County Jail and booked on suspicion of misdemeanor assault.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486, @seanrobinsonTNT