Police Beat: A drunk at the drive-thru, a false choking and a stolen phone

Editor’s note: Compiled from reports to Tacoma police.

Sept. 7: The soldier couldn’t navigate the drive-thru lane at the burger joint.

He gave his order, edged toward the pickup window and jumped the curb. His truck plowed into the shrubs lining the driveway. He gunned the engine, careened into the parking lot, stepped out of the truck, kicked it a few times and walked away.

Officers called to the incident drove to the 2900 block of South 38th Street. They found the truck and a wallet on the floor by the driver’s seat. They found the man a few blocks away.

The manager of the burger joint told police what she saw. She said the man begged her not to call police and ran when he realized she was calling them.

The soldier was 24. He told police he was walking back to his apartment.

“I was too drunk to drive,” he said. His words slurred.

He thought he’d fallen asleep after he ordered his food and before he reached the pickup window. That was why the truck lurched forward.

He said he’d started walking back to his truck when he realized he didn’t have his wallet or his phone. He said he’d been drinking at a party in downtown Tacoma.

Asked what he’d been drinking and how much, he said, “too much.”

He agreed to take a field sobriety test. He failed it. The test yielded a blood-alcohol level of 0.19, more than twice the legal driving limit of 0.08.

Officers told the man he was under arrest. The man fought back tears.

“My life is ruined,” he said.

Officers took him to the Fife City Jail and booked him on suspicion of drunken driving. On the way, the man cried.

“I can’t believe how stupid I am,” he said. “My military career is over. I never should have driven.”

Sept. 7: Nothing made sense; someone had to be lying. Officers finally decided the liar was Mom.

The call started as a report of vandalism — the victim said his girlfriend’s mother shattered his car window.

The story blurred from there. Officers drove to an address in the 4000 block of East B Street. They found the car, a 1995 Jeep Cherokee. The window was shattered.

The car owner, a 33-year-old man, said his girlfriend’s mother did it. The man gave more detail. He said the house wasn’t his. His girlfriend lived there with her two children and her mother. The man said he stayed there sometimes.

That morning, the man said, he and Mom argued. She yelled at him. He called her a name. She got mad and broke his window.

Officers spoke to Mom, 52, and the girlfriend, who was 25 and crying. Mom said she was trying to stop the boyfriend from abusing her daughter.

She said she woke up that morning and heard the couple fighting. She said she saw the boyfriend choking her daughter, both hands around her throat. She pointed to marks on her daughter’s neck: a red mark on one side and a scratch on the other. The boyfriend made those marks, Mom said.

Officers cuffed the boyfriend, put him in a patrol car and gathered more information. They spoke to the neighbor who called police originally. The neighbor, a 30-year-old man, said he heard the sound of breaking glass, looked around the hedge and saw Mom standing next to the boyfriend’s car with a metal pipe. The neighbor said he heard Mom shouting, “I’ll tell police you choked her.”

Officers spoke to the girlfriend. She said her boyfriend had spent the night. She woke him up and told him to go to work. He got mad and grabbed her by the throat with one hand. She said he never squeezed or pushed, and immediately let go.

“I’m telling you the truth,” the girlfriend said. She said it at least 10 times, according to the police report.

Officers spoke to Mom again. She repeated her story: The boyfriend had both hands around her daughter’s throat. She said she was sorry for breaking the car window, but she didn’t know what else to do to stop the abuse.

Officers spoke to the boyfriend again. He said he and his girlfriend’s mother hated each other — but he said he never touched his girlfriend and hadn’t assaulted her.

Officers spoke to the girlfriend again. She repeated her story and again said, “I’m telling the truth.”

One officer said the story Mom told and the story the girlfriend told didn’t match. The girlfriend started crying.

“Do you want me to tell you the truth?” she asked.

The girlfriend said her mother made the marks on her neck in an effort to frame the boyfriend. She was trying to get him arrested.

Officers took Mom into custody. Mom said she’d never been in trouble before. She said she was just trying to protect her daughter and grandchildren from the boyfriend. He didn’t treat them right, she said.

Officers booked Mom into the Fife City Jail on suspicion of destruction of property and making a false statement to a police officer.

Sept. 10: After filching a phone, the man tried to extort a finder’s fee. Instead, he got a trip to jail.

Officers picked up the dispatch call — a reported theft — and drove to Tacoma General Hospital.

The victim was a 52-year-old woman. She worked at a grocery store in Tacoma. During her shift, she’d lost track of her phone. She searched for a while, with no luck.

A little later, the woman got a call from a friend who happened to be in the list of contacts on the missing phone. The friend said someone had called her, saying he’d found a phone and wanted a reward for returning it.

The 52-year-old hesitated, then called her own number. A male voice answered. He said he had her phone. He was willing to return it if he got paid — $20.

At first the woman refused. Then she gave in. The male voice told her to meet him in the hospital parking lot. He said he’d be riding a bicycle.

The woman went and waited. She called police first — then she called the man who had her phone.

On the other end of the line, she heard sounds of a struggle and a male voice saying, “Don’t touch me.”

It turned out that two sets of officers had responded. One group had caught up with the man on the bicycle. He was 27. The sounds of struggle were the sounds of an arrest.

Officers spoke to the woman, who said she understood the man might have thought she would pay him.

Legally, that ended any possibility of arresting the man for extortion; but he had three active arrest warrants out of Tacoma and Lakewood. Officers arrested him on the basis of those warrants and transported him to the Fife City Jail. They returned the phone to the woman.