Crime

Police Beat: A returning shoplifter, a destructive stranger and a street fight

March 3: Pop quiz — you’re a registered sex offender on active state supervision. You pop into a convenience store, swipe a cigarette roller while the clerk is distracted, and walk out, easy as pie. What’s your next move?

A: Enjoy your free cigarette roller and stay away from the store.

B: Come back to the store two weeks later and poke around.

The Tacoma sex offender chose option B. The store clerks spotted him instantly.

Officers drove to the store in the 2300 block of South 12th Street. The dispatch call said one of the clerks was armed with a handgun.

The doors were shut when officers arrived; the clerks had locked themselves in with the suspects. One of them was the sex offender, a 54-year-old man. The other was a 47-year-old woman.

Clerks showed officers surveillance tape from two weeks earlier. The man and the woman appeared in the footage. The man reached into the overhead rack when the clerk wasn’t looking, took the cigarette roller and tucked it into his coat. After that, he and the woman walked out.

The clerks said they wanted both people banned from the store, and they wanted the man charged with theft.

The man and the woman denied taking anything. The woman said she had no identification. She gave a name that didn’t match anything in records. Deeper checking revealed mug shots that matched her face, and a different name. The woman had a pair of active arrest warrants.

Officers told the man and the woman they were banned from the store. They booked the woman into the Fife City Jail on the two warrants and a new charge of obstructing a law enforcement officer.

They cited the man for third-degree theft, released him and told him to contact the Tacoma Municipal Court. The man ultimately admitted taking the cigarette roller, but he said the clerk followed him at the time and got it back. The clerks at the store said that wasn’t true.

March 1: Moving out of an apartment was no fun, but the woman’s day worsened when a stranger came along and started destroying her stuff.

The woman was 24. She hauled a small refrigerator, a couch and two TVs to the doorway. As she moved back and forth, she noticed a stranger — an older woman – pick up the mini-fridge, carry it to the sidewalk and break it. She did the same with the two TVs.

The younger woman confronted the stranger, who started walking away. The woman followed and called 911 to say she was following the stranger.

The dispatcher told the woman to stop; following a suspect was dangerous. The woman kept following. The stranger noticed, said she had $8,000, and told the woman to stop following her.

Eventually, two officers caught up with the slow-motion chase. They detained the stranger and tried to explain to the woman that following a suspect was a bad idea. The woman disagreed.

Officers asked if any witnesses had seen the original incident. The woman said yes, back at the apartment complex. Officers drove her back to an address in the 7600 block of Pacific Avenue.

Another tenant had seen the incident. The account matched the woman’s version. Officers noted the damaged refrigerator and the broken TVs.

The stranger was 37, from Tacoma. She said she tripped and fell over the items and that was how they were damaged. She spoke strangely and moved jerkily; officers guessed she was drunk or high. They booked her into the Fife City Jail on suspicion of destruction of property.

Feb. 28: The street fight flared without warning.

Two officers were working off-duty security outside a restaurant in the 2800 block of Sixth Avenue when it started. Parked cars blocked their view, but they saw one man’s arms flailing and at least two other people in a scrum.

They rushed across the street and corralled a man in a black leather jacket. He was 21. He cursed and asked why he was being arrested. The other two people were gone.

Officers still weren’t sure what had happened; a witness stepped out of the restaurant and explained. The witness, 24, said he and his friend had stepped out of the restaurant briefly when the guy in the leather jacket confronted them “for no reason.”

The friend, a soldier, had walked out first. The witness followed, noticed the confrontation and asked what was going on, he said.

The guy in the jacket got in his face, balled up his fists and threw a punch, the witness said. The witness admitted punching back, and said he told his friend to go back inside.

The soldier, 21, came out of the restaurant and told a similar story. He said he’d been standing outside when he saw the guy in the jacket driving by “too fast.” He had yelled “slow down” as the car passed.

The car had driven away, but the guy in the jacket showed up a few minutes later and started yelling, claiming that the soldier had flipped him off. The soldier denied it. That was when the guy in the jacket started getting aggressive.

The two men said they didn’t want any trouble. Another witness, a transient, wouldn’t give his name, but he told the officers that the guy in the jacket started the fight.

Officers spoke to the jacketed man, who was demanding to be released. Instead, officers booked him into the Fife City Jail on suspicion of fighting in public.

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