Police Beat: A dog named Justice, snow donuts and a broken backhoe

These (not so) smooth criminals should stick to their day jobs

Sometimes the “perfect crime” doesn't quite play out as intended. Here are some criminals who could use some practice.
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Sometimes the “perfect crime” doesn't quite play out as intended. Here are some criminals who could use some practice.

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

Feb. 4: It would be too perfect to say a car theft was foiled by a dog named Justice, but the real story comes close.

Justice, an Airedale terrier, was getting her hair done when the would-be thief struck. The incident ended after a snowy slow-motion foot chase, a real-time Facebook video and an arrest.

Sheriff’s deputies answered a 911 call from the dog’s owner, who runs a mobile dog grooming business based in University Place.

They arrived to find the owner confronting a woman, 39, who wouldn’t answer questions.

The owner told deputies she had been grooming Justice in the back of her van. The engine was running.

The owner heard the door open. She saw the 39-year-old slip into the driver’s seat, place her purse between the seats and shift the van into drive.

“Who are you?” the owner shouted. “What are you doing?”

The van lurched. So did the owner, who kept shouting. The woman shifted the van back into park, opened the driver’s door and fled.

The owner followed. She was close enough to pull at the woman’s hoodie in an attempt to see her face. The woman pulled the owner’s hand away and kept walking.

The owner, who had no coat, rushed back to her house to find one. Meanwhile, the woman walked to a neighboring garage and tried to hide in the bed of a truck. The neighbor shooed her away.

By this time, the owner had returned to the chase. She followed footprints in the snow, filming and narrating the chase on Facebook as she caught up with the woman and confronted her.

“Say hi to Facebook Live, lady,” the owner said on the video as the woman tried to hide her face. “Everybody says hello.”

When deputies arrived, they took statements from the dog’s owner and the neighbor. The owner had security cameras at her house. She showed the footage to deputies.

They saw the attempted theft play out. The woman had tried the driver’s door of the van, which was locked. She walked around to the passenger door, opened it and climbed inside.

Deputies booked the woman into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of attempted motor vehicle theft and residential burglary. Justice had no comment.

Feb. 4: Pop quiz — your driver’s license is suspended, you have your three children in the car, and the mother of your kids hands you the keys because she’s afraid of driving in the snow. What do you do?

A: Drive slowly and carefully to safety, being careful not to attract attention.

B: Turn a series of 360-degree donuts in a packed, icy supermarket parking lot until the cops notice.

The Pierce County man chose Option B. A sheriff’s deputy spotted his antics in the parking lot of a Walmart at 20307 Mountain Highway E.

The lot was full of other cars, moving and parked, as well as pedestrians navigating the slippery footing. The deputy flicked on his emergency lights. The car briefly pulled away, then stopped at a burger joint.

The deputy walked to the driver’s door, explained the reason for the stop and asked the driver for his license, registration and proof of insurance.

The man replied that he didn’t have a license; it was suspended. The deputy told him to get out of the car and cuffed him.

The deputy spoke to the woman in the passenger seat. She identified herself. She said the three children in the back seat — ages 1, 4 and 8 — belonged to her and the man.

The deputy asked the man if he knew his license was suspended. The man said yes. His license had been suspended for lagging on child support payments, he said. He planned to file for bankruptcy.

Did he understand that it was reckless to pull stunts in an icy parking lot with children in the car?

The man said yes and apologized. He said his wife gave him the keys because she was afraid to drive in the snow.

The deputy gave the woman the keys. He told her to drive safely. She said she would.

The man was booked into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of reckless driving, reckless endangerment and driving with a suspended license.

Feb. 7: Operating a backhoe is tough enough under normal conditions. The task becomes exponentially harder if you drink and smoke dope beforehand.

The dispatch call reported an assault. A sheriff’s deputy drove to the 8200 block of 288th Street South near Roy.

They spoke to a man who said he’d been attacked with a tire iron. The man said he and another man he occasionally employed had been unloading logs from a flatbed truck.

The first man owned a backhoe. The second man had been operating it, but he was out of control. A part had broken and fallen off.

The first man admitted that the pair had been drinking and smoking marijuana before they started the job. He said he got angry when the backhoe broke. He told the second man to leave and crawled underneath the backhoe to fix it.

As the first man set up a jack, the second man roared at him and jumped on top of him, he said. The second man grabbed a tire iron or a pipe and started swinging it, striking the first man in the face.

The first man grabbed the second man’s hand to ward off the blows. The second man fled.

The first man said the two were friends of a sort. He had relied on the second man for occasional help over the past two months, and everything had been fine — but today he had feared for his life.

The deputy looked the first man over. He had bruises on his face, and the back of his head was bleeding. The deputy called for backup. Along with colleagues, he found the second man waiting for them at a nearby address.

The second man said the first man flipped out and attacke him when the backhoe broke. He denied using a pipe or tire iron.

Deputies made a judgment call. They booked the second man into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of second-degree assault.

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.