Tacoma police arrest suspect in spate of South End rapes

Tacoma police arrested a man Sunday morning they say offered women rides in his beige SUV and then raped them at knifepoint.

The 38-year-old Lacey man was booked into Pierce County Jail about 2:30 a.m. on suspicion of four counts of first-degree rape and one count of first-degree robbery, court records show.

The man picked up a woman waiting with a friend for a ride on Pacific Avenue near South 84th Street about 10:30 p.m. Saturday night, Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said Sunday. The woman wanted to go down Pacific Avenue to 144th Street South, but the man pulled off the street at about South 96th Street, pulled a knife on her and forced her to perform a sex act.

The 32-year-old woman called police and reported what had happened, and the details — the knife and taking of the victims’ purses and cellphones — matched the description of four other reported assaults in the area.

Earlier Saturday evening, a Tacoma police officer on duty near Pacific Avenue and South 72nd Street saw an SUV similar to one reportedly involved in a number of sexual assaults. The officer ran the license plates, Cool said, but the driver did not match the age of the registered owner, so the officer thought it was the wrong vehicle.

The woman who was raped Saturday night had a phone-tracking app that she activated when it was stolen, Cool said. Its last reported location was either in DuPont or Lacey. Officers were able to identify the man suspected in the assaults and booked him into jail early Sunday.

The first reported sexual assault happened about midnight Aug. 5, Cool said, when a man threatened a 33-year-old woman walking in the 3000 block of Portland Avenue East and ordered her into his SUV. He pulled over nearby, forced her to perform a sex act, ordered her from the vehicle and left.

The second assault happened 11 p.m. Aug. 11 but wasn’t reported until Monday, Cool said. A 17-year-old girl was in the 9600 block of Pacific Avenue when the man offered her a ride.

The teen got into the man’s SUV, believing she was going to be paid for sex, Cool said, but the man drove a short distance away, pulled a knife, forced her to perform a sex act, then left her on the side of the road.

About 11 p.m. Aug. 26, a 40-year-old woman was offered a ride and taken to a gas station in the 1700 block of South 72nd Street, just east of Interstate 5, Cool said. The man would not let her out of the SUV, but she was able to jump out, leaving behind her phone and purse.

At 1:30 a.m. Friday, a 28-year-old woman was on Pacific Avenue at 84th Street when a man driving an SUV threatened her with a knife and told her to perform a sex act, Cool said. She flagged down a passing Tacoma police officer and reported what had happened, but she did not want to file a report.

Because officers believe there may be other victims who haven’t come forward, they released a description of the man: He is white, about 6-foot-1 and weighs between 250 and 300 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. Anyone who had contact with a man matching that description in a beige SUV is asked to contact Tacoma police at 253-591-5968.