Police swarm home in East Tacoma, arrest man suspected of making explosives

Marty Kapsh understands why Tacoma police arrested his grandson Wednesday morning — but he’s not too happy with the way officers handled the incident.

Kapsh, 83, was still in bed when officers and a SWAT team swarmed his home in East Tacoma. The officers were responding to multiple complaints and 911 calls from neighbors over the previous few days.

The grandson was suspected of making explosives.

“Different neighbors called in to 911 that this guy was setting off explosives, filling the neighborhood with blue smoke,” police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said.

The grandson, 34, was arrested and booked into the Pierce County Jail. The News Tribune is not naming him because he had not been charged.

Kapsh, who retired from the U.S. Air Force, said officers came to his door in “full battle rattle,” and told everyone to come outside. At the time, four people were in the house — Kapsh, his son, his grandson and the grandson’s girlfriend.

“I asked them if they had a search warrant and they said yes,” Kapsh said. “I said, ‘Will you bring the search warrant up here so I can take a look at it?’ ”

Kapsh said officers gave conflicting answers about the warrant. He didn’t get to see it until after he’d been placed in a patrol car, taken to police headquarters and questioned. He subsequently was released and allowed to go home.

“At the precinct, they brought me a warrant and showed it to me,” he said. “The detective said that they did actually have a warrant, the officers that were there, but because it was a SWAT team, they didn’t have time to show me the warrant.”

The News Tribune interviewed Kapsh on Wednesday afternoon. He walks with a cane. He sat at his kitchen table, near multiple packs of medications labeled by the days of the week.

He had a signed copy of the warrant in his pocket. A copy of the search warrant return — a separate document — was taped to a large TV.

The warrant stated that officers were searching for materials related to making explosives, as well as instructional manuals and firearms.

Kapsh said he suspected his grandson had been setting off explosives and fireworks; he recalled hearing two explosions in the past week, but knew nothing more.

The News Tribune spoke to several neighbors who didn’t want to be named. They said they’d heard multiple explosions in the neighborhood lately and complained to police.

Cool, the police spokeswoman, said she could not speak to details of what officers said at the scene.

“I can’t answer as to how they did or didn’t answer his questions, or whether the truth is encapsulated in the right period of time,” she said. “I have no way of knowing.”

Typically, she said, officers serving warrants at an address gather the occupants together and read the warrant aloud. Usually, she said, the person named in the warrant is the first to receive a copy. The warrant names the grandson, but not Kapsh.

A swift entry and quick clearance of the house, as opposed to a polite knock, would be typical under circumstances involving reported explosives, Cool said.

“He had already detonated two or three of them, according to witnesses,” she said. “We’re not just going to knock on the door and let him blow up the house.”