Police Beat: A repeat prowler, a cab-fare quarrel and a pair of shaved keys

Jan. 13: The Tacoma man scored swag twice in two weeks from the same place. His luck ran out on the third visit.

The dispatch call came from Tacoma General Hospital. Security staff had a suspected thief in custody. Officers drove to the hospital for a pickup.

They found two security officers and a 30-year-old man in handcuffs.

Employees had spotted the man, who looked familiar, and called security. Video and pictures recorded the man’s visit Dec. 14. A purse had been stolen from a waiting room on the fourth floor.

The video images showed the man walking into the waiting room. He admitted taking the purse. He said he’d given it to a friend named “Brian.”

The man’s backpack contained a pair of hospital security radios. Those had been taken Dec. 31.

The man said he didn’t know the radios were in his backpack. He said he shared the backpack with “Brian.” The man said he didn’t know Brian’s last name, and he gave no other information about him.

The man had four active arrest warrants out of Tacoma: two for third-degree theft, one for a criminal assault and one for violating a no-contact order. Police booked him into the Fife City Jail on the warrants and suspicion of possessing stolen property.

Jan. 14: The woman tried to pay her cab fare with a bad credit card, then claimed the cab driver groped her.

An officer driving past the 7300 block of South Wilkeson Street caught the argument in full swing. The woman and the cab driver flagged him down.

The woman was 36. She yelled at the driver to leave her alone. The driver was 53. He said the woman was trying to walk away from the fare.

The woman told the officer she called for a cab and the driver picked her up. She told him to go to a thrift store. She said the driver went past it, to a coffee shop. She said she told him to let her out, but he refused. She said she tried to pay the fare with her credit card, but it was declined. She said the driver grabbed her breasts and told her she’d pay “one way or another.”

The officer asked the woman for identification. She said she didn’t have any. She gave a name. She was loud. She said she wanted to file charges against the driver.

The driver told a similar story, with slight differences. He said he drove the woman to the thrift store. She tried to pay him with a credit card. It was rejected.

She told him she could get money from an ATM, so he drove her to one. She tried to get cash out of the machine, but couldn’t get any. She walked away. He followed. He denied groping the woman.

Stuck with a she-said, he-said scenario, the officer delved deeper.

He looked at the credit card the woman had used to try to pay the fare. The card had a name — it wasn’t the same as the name the woman had given.

The woman said her roommate had ordered the card for her with that name. The officer asked if she was still willing to pay the fare. She said she was. She gave the card to the driver again. He tried to run it for a payment. It didn’t work.

The officer checked the name the woman had given against prior police contacts. The name came back as an alias. The woman had a different name, with an arrest warrant attached for a prior domestic-violence assault.

The officer asked the woman about the groping. When did it happen? The woman said it was before she tried to pay the fare.

The officer picked up on that; the story had changed. He booked the woman into the Fife City Jail on the prior warrant. The cab driver was released at the scene. No one paid the fare.

Jan. 15: The man wore dark clothing from head to toe. He cut across South J Street in the 4100 block, bee-lined to the driver’s door of a black 1997 Honda Accord and tried to open it with a key. It was 12:30 a.m.

The key wasn’t working. The man kept trying. Someone walked by. The man paused. When the bystander passed, he took another shot at the car door.

Two officers watched from a patrol car. The man walked away from the Honda. The officers stopped him and asked what he was doing.

The man said his friend sent him to get the Honda.

Where was the man coming from? The Emerald Queen Casino, the man said. His friend was still there, too high to drive, and had given up the keys.

Officers asked to see the keys. Two were shaved. One was blank — a dealer’s key. The man also carried a small flashlight.

The gear was suspicious; consistent with tools used by car prowlers. The man kept saying his friend was at the casino, but added he really didn’t know him that well.

The Honda’s registration was linked to a woman; not the name the man had given for his friend.

Officers ran the man’s name. A hit came back; the man had a prior arrest warrant for theft. Officers booked him into the Fife City Jail on the warrant and on suspicion of possessing burglary tools and vehicle prowling.