Crime

Police Beat: A mystery motor home, domestic violence and wet tortillas

Police Beat is compiled from reports to local law enforcement agencies.
Police Beat is compiled from reports to local law enforcement agencies. thinkstockphotos.com

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

Dec. 17: What was the true story of the limping motor home? What role did it play in the annals of Spanaway lore?

The sheriff’s deputy never found out. His first concern was the nervous driver.

The gray motor home was lurching along the 26200 block of 8th Avenue East at 15 miles per hour when the deputy spotted it. A line of cars backed up behind it. Gradually, they pulled past.

The deputy caught a glimpse of the vehicle’s back end: No license plate, no trip permit. He flicked on his lights and pulled it over.

Walking toward the driver’s door, the deputy spotted a temporary license taped to the rear window. It didn’t look right. Someone had altered the date.

The deputy spoke to the driver and explained the reason for the stop. The driver, a 23-year-old man, said the rig wasn’t running properly. He was aiming for a gas station down the road.

The deputy asked for the man’s driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.

The man paused and patted his pockets, front and back. He stepped out and walked toward the back of the motor home. The deputy told him to come back.

The man came back. The deputy repeated the request for a license and paperwork.

The man reached into the cab, pulled out a wallet and handed over an identification card. He said he didn’t have a license.

The deputy, wary of the man’s edgy manner, asked if anyone was inside the motor home. The man said no, and walked to other side. The deputy followed.

The man entered the coach area. The deputy heard him talking and knocked on the main door. The man stepped outside.

Who was in the vehicle?

The man said it was his girlfriend. The deputy stowed the man in his patrol car and knocked on the main door again.

Another man, 36, stepped out. No, he wasn’t the girlfriend, but he said two more people were inside. Soon, they stepped out: another man and a woman.

The 36-year-old said he owned the motor home. He said he bought it in 2017, but didn’t have the money to register it. He admitted that the altered temporary license came from another car. He said he didn’t know whether the driver had a license.

The deputy ran a records check on the driver. It turned up an active felony arrest warrant. The driver said he knew about it, and that was why he was nervous. He added that he’d just swallowed 1.5 grams of heroin and felt sick.

The deputy checked records on the motor home, but couldn’t find an owner. As he sorted things out and requested aid from colleagues, another car drove up. The woman behind the wheel said she was traveling with the motor home.

She had no license or identification, though she gave her name. A records check revealed that her license was suspended. She said she’d just bought the car she was driving, and showed the title. It didn’t list her name.

The deputy arrested the driver of the motor home. He was sent to a local hospital for a medical evaluation, cleared and booked into the Pierce County Jail. The other four people were released at the scene and left on foot. The woman’s car was impounded, along with the motor home.

Dec. 18: The dispatch call reported a domestic dispute. Two Tacoma officers drove to the 3800 block of South Mason and walked to the door of an apartment.

One officer heard noises, as though someone had been pushed into a wall. Whimpers followed, then a male voice, screaming. One officer banged on the door and announced himself.

The noises stopped. A neighbor in the parking lot told the officers police had been there before.

The officers, now accompanied by a sergeant, knocked again and said they weren’t leaving. Low murmurs came from the apartment.

Officers decided they had enough cause to go in. They found the apartment manager, who supplied a key.

A woman, 24, stepped out of a bedroom.

Was anyone else inside?

“My boyfriend and my daughter.”

Where was the boyfriend?

The woman pointed to a room with a closed door. The officers knocked. No one answered. They opened it. A man, 30, stepped out. One officer cuffed him and walked him outside.

The other stayed inside and spoke to the woman.

What happened?

“Nothing.”

Was she sure?

“Nothing happened.”

What about the noises?

The woman began to cry. She said nothing happened but an argument.

The other officer spoke to the man, who said he and the woman were just arguing.

A records check revealed the man had an active arrest warrant. He was also named in a domestic violence protection order that prohibited contact with the woman.

Officers arrested the man and booked him into the Pierce County Jail on the warrant and suspicion of violating the protection order.

Dec. 18: The neighbors fought over garbage, as in old tortillas.

The dispatch call reported an assault. Two sheriff’s deputies drove the 17500 block of 24th Street Court East, near Lake Tapps.

They spoke to a woman who said the neighbor threw food in her face. The woman said the conflict was long-running.

The deputies said they weren’t aware of any prior issues. The woman said the neighbor’s fence was falling apart. She was trying to replace broken boards when she noticed wet tortillas on her side of the fence. She said the neighbors had loose garbage cans nearby, and an animal must have disturbed them.

The woman said she picked up the garbage and started throwing it back when the neighbor came out, yelled at her and hurled an empty tortilla bag, hitting the woman in the face.

The woman wanted to report the neighbor for assault. She wanted the neighbor listed as a suspect.

Deputies saw no signs of injury. They spoke to the neighbor, who said she stepped outside and saw the woman throwing garbage on their property. She admitted shouting at the woman and throwing the plastic bag. She said the trash wasn’t hers.

Deputies spoke to the woman again. She demanded an assault report, and insisted the the neighbor had to be listed as a suspect.

The deputies said they weren’t going to do that. The incident would be listed as a neighbor dispute. They gave her a case number and left.

News Tribune investigative reporter Sean Robinson won the 2016 Ted Natt First Amendment award for ongoing scrutiny of the Pierce County Prosecutor’s office. Since 2000, he has produced award-winning coverage related to criminal justice, government accountability and public disclosure.


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