Crime

Police Beat: An April fool, a defiant veteran and a serial tagger

April 1: On a day dedicated to fools, the Tacoma man checked every box.

He celebrated with wine and Xanax for lunch, got behind the wheel of a 1993 Chevrolet Cavalier, lurched along South 19th Street, veered onto South Mildred Street, barely missed a pair of pedestrians, hit a curb, overcorrected, swung into oncoming traffic, and avoided another collision before speeding toward Sixth Avenue.

Another driver was following, monitoring the Cavalier’s progress and talking to a 911 dispatcher. An officer soon arrived to pick up the chase and pulled the car over.

The driver was 38, from Tacoma. He wore one shoe. The other was lying on the floor of the car.

A routine records check revealed that the man had a prior conviction for drunken driving, a suspended license, and a requirement to have an ignition interlock device if he was driving. The car didn’t have one.

The officer took the man to a hospital for treatment. The man kept nodding off, waking up and forgetting he’d been arrested. He said he’d started a methadone program three months earlier to kick a drug habit.

Eventually, the man refused further treatment and asked to be released from the hospital. At that point, the officer cuffed him and reminded him again that he was under arrest.

Leaving the hospital, the officer said, “Heck of a day, wasn’t it?”

“I was super stoned!” the man replied. He asked what would happen next. The officer said processing at the Fife City Jail was next.

The man said he hoped the people at the jail didn’t cut off his ankle bracelet — an electronic home monitoring device — like they had the last time. That had cost him money, the man said.

The officer asked how many times the man had been arrested with his ankle bracelet.

“Only once before,” the man said.

The officer booked him into the Fife Jail on suspicion of drunken driving.

March 31: The veteran wined and dined on the tavern’s dime, announced that he wasn’t paying, then called 911 on himself. He proclaimed that he was defrauding an innkeeper to make a point.

Two officers drove to the tavern in the 800 block of Pacific Avenue and spoke to the veteran. He was 58.

“Yes, I ate and drank, but I’m not going to pay for anything,” he said.

The bartender showed the officers the tab: $89.52.

The veteran explained himself. He wanted to be arrested. That would give him a chance to stand in front of a judge and air his grievances. They, the man said — never identifying who they were — had defrauded him of money and property, and had his mother cremated while he was overseas instead of burying her next to the man’s father. The Veterans Administration had ignored him. Telling a judge was the only alternative.

Officers booked the man into the Fife City Jail on suspicion of misdemeanor theft.

March 31: The serial tagger favored three signatures: DREMR, DREM and DREMS. He’d haunted Tacoma’s East Side for a year, until a camera caught him.

A witness saw him first. The tagger scrawled his signature on a book donation box in the 3800 block of Portland Avenue. The witness called police; she said she had surveillance video to back up her story.

An officer drove to the spot. She knew the blue signature from numerous reports. She looked at the video provided by the witness. She checked the area and found no sign of the tagger.

A little later, her phone rang — a neighbor reported a suspicious person walking through an alley. The description matched the footage the officer had just seen. The officer drove to the 3400 block of East Harrison Street, spotted the tagger and called to him.

The tagger was 21. He carried a backpack. The officer said she was investigating a report of vandalism. She asked if the tagger had any weapons. He said he didn’t — but he carried spray paint cans and a blue marker.

The officer cuffed him and asked if the man had been vandalizing property. The man said no.

The officer said a witness had seen the man, and video had recorded his actions.

“I don’t want to make the community upset,” the tagger said. “I just want to make people feel good.”

The officer said vandalizing property wasn’t the way to make the community happy. The tagger said he would cover his tags and tell others to stop. From prior contacts, the officer knew the tagger was part of a local crew.

The officer booked the man into the Fife City Jail on suspicion of graffiti vandalism. She drove to a home in the 4100 block of East T Street and spoke to the tagger’s mother. The telltale tags — DREM, DREMR, DREMS — were everywhere.

The man’s mother said her son had been doing this for a long time and that she didn’t know how to make him stop.

March 31: The 36-year-old man had a mullet, a smidgen of wit, and a set of drill bits in his pocket. He hadn’t paid for them, and admitted as much to the officer who quizzed him at the hardware store in the 7000 block of Tacoma Mall Boulevard.

Before the man was booked into the Fife City Jail on suspicion of third-degree theft, the officer asked him one question.

“How much money do you have on you right now?” the officer asked.

“Nothing,” the man replied. “If I had money, I wouldn’t have taken the drill bits.”

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