Police Beat: Breaking and laundering, a missing cat, and a snowy hit-and-run

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

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

Feb. 13: Break-ins typically involve a quick search for valuables, but the intruder was more interested in doing laundry.

The break-in target was a salon. The owner was sleeping at home when her phone jangled at 3:55 a.m., sounding an alarm. The owner realized she’d forgotten to lock the door. Pressing buttons on her phone, she locked it remotely, clicked the surveillance camera app and watched.

The figure on the screen appeared to be a white female with bright red hair, going in and out. The owner called 911 and headed for the office. On the way, she saw the intruder throw a flower pot through the now-locked glass door.

Two sheriff’s deputies drove to the 8100 block of 112th Street Court East, near Woodland Elementary School. They soon spotted the owner, who was talking to a woman with red hair.

A closer look revealed that the red hair was a wig, and the woman was a man, 42. Deputies cuffed him and placed him in a patrol car. He didn’t resist, and admitted breaking in. He handed over a bottle of massage cream, taken from the salon.

Deputies looked at the glass door of the business, apparently shattered by a concrete planter. Inside, they found a red shopping cart, full of what appeared to be personal belongings and clothing.

The man explained that he was homeless, and often checked businesses at night to see whether the doors were locked. Sometimes he would go inside to sleep, especially in cold weather.

The door to the salon had been open, he said, so he rolled his shopping cart inside, noticed the washer and dryer and started doing laundry.

He stepped outside, tried to go back in and realized the door was locked. He said he broke the door so he could retrieve his clothes.

Why did he take the massage cream?

The man said he didn’t know. He said he was probably high.

Deputies booked the man into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of second-degree burglary.

Feb. 10: The search for a missing cat ended with a struggle over a baseball bat.

The dispatch call, classically banal, reported “unknown trouble.”

Two sheriff’s deputies rolled to the 22500 block of 134th Street Court East near Orting.

They spoke to a man, 60, who said he had been looking for his missing cat. He had an inkling that the neighbor was hiding it. He spoke to her, and she threatened him with a baseball bat, he said. He took the bat away, and threw it underneath a motor home nearby.

Had the neighbor told him to leave?

No, the man said.

Had he tried to force his way into the neighbor’s house?

No, the man said.

The neighbor told a different story. She said the man was a stranger. He came to the front door asking about a missing cat, and held up a photo. The neighbor looked at it, and said she hadn’t seen the cat.

She tried to shut the door at that point, but the man forced his way in. She grabbed a baseball bat, and the two struggled before he took it away from her. The neighbor said she jumped out of a window to get away, and called 911.

Deputies spoke to a witness who was standing nearby. She said she had seen two cats leave the neighbor’s house, and thought one of them looked like the man’s missing cat. She told the man about it.

Had she seen either cat go back into the neighbor’s house? No.

Had she seen the confrontation at the neighbor’s door? No, but she said she heard the neighbor screaming at her to call 911.

Deputies checked the interior of the neighbor’s house and found signs of a struggle, including a broken table. They told the man he was under arrest, and booked him into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of residential burglary.

Feb. 9: The hit-and-run driver tried to flee, but the customers in the parking lot wouldn’t allow it.

The dispatch call reported a series of collisions and a scuffle at a Tacoma grocery store. Multiple officers drove to the 1900 block of South 72nd Street to sort out the mess.

They found a group of people surrounding a man, 27, who was fighting with loss prevention officers from the store.

Officers Interviewed witnesses, examined surveillance video from the parking lot, and pieced the story together.

The man, driving a blue 2005 Hyundai Santa Fe, had crashed into three cars. Witnesses surrounded him, trying to stop him from leaving. The man had stepped out of his own car and tried to enter another vehicle driven by someone else.

One of the loss prevention officers stopped him and told him to wait for police. The man rushed and threw punches. After a wrestling match, he was pinned to the ground.

The surveillance video showed the man driving erratically — too fast for the snowy conditions. Officers spoke to him. He complained that a bunch of people pulled him out of his car and threw him down.

“I told them I have insurance and I can pay for the cars I hit,” the man said.

Officers caught a whiff of liquor. It wasn’t strong, but the man’s mood was off. He said he had a drink the night before, but he didn’t seem to know what day it was. He added that he suffered from panic attacks and took anxiety medication four times a day.

Officers took him to a nearby hospital. On the way, the man threw up in the patrol car. He walked into the emergency room unsteadily. Eventually, he was booked into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of hit-and-run and drunken driving.

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.