Shoreline police sergeant arrests serial robbery suspects

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The ShorelineAreaNews reported that arrests had been made in a string of robberies, including Goldie's Casino, but from Sgt. Katie Larson of the Shoreline Police, here's the rest of the story.

By Sgt. Katie Larson, Shoreline Police

Oftentimes citizens hear about significant arrests on TV/radio via a 20 second sound bite. Occasionally you can find a bit more in the newspaper. I’d like to take this opportunity to give everyone an “insiders” look, if you will, into this particular investigation, in hopes that everyone can perhaps gain a realistic appreciation for the police work done here in Shoreline.

On October 26, 2009, the serial robbery spree began when two masked/gloved men armed with a shotgun and handgun entered the Check to Cash in Renton. The suspects flee and a realistic toy shotgun was recovered. Witnesses who saw the two men prior to the robbery describe them as being African American males in their 40s.

On October 29, 2009, two masked and gloved-up males rob the Bank of America along 196th St. in Lynnwood. One is armed with a revolver and a shotgun and wears a “puffy” black jacket. The other is armed with a pistol. The shotgun may have been a toy due to the way it is handled by the suspect. One suspect FIRES his weapon as they exit the bank.

On November 13, 2009, a masked and gloved lone male robs Goldie’s Casino in Shoreline. He is armed with a silver/chrome revolver and a shotgun and is wearing a “puffy” black jacket. He robs the casino and is seen running to a waiting silver/gray SUV. The suspect FIRES his handgun as he flees the area. Officers recover one half of a toy shotgun in the path the suspect fled.

On December 2, 2009, a masked and gloved lone male robs the Royal Casino in Snohomish County. He is armed with a handgun and a shotgun and is wearing a “puffy” jacket.

On January 13, 2010, two masked and gloved males rob the Silver Dollar Casino in SeaTac. One is armed with a handgun and a shotgun and wears a “puffy” black jacket. The other is armed with a handgun. They failed to complete this robbery due to the “cash cage” employee having just stepped out of the cage prior to the robber’s entry. The cage is unoccupied and the suspects flee.

So……………are you seeing the pattern?

During these take-over robberies the suspects have controlled numerous customers and employees at gunpoint. Typically one suspect will stay back as a “guard” as the other announces the robbery and gains the cash. The suspects are known to park one or two properties away from the target business and walk into the business already wearing their masks.

Based upon the above we were fairly certain that the suspects would attempt another robbery soon.

Armed with the information above Shoreline Police Officers began paying special attention to our casinos and other businesses that may attract these suspects.

On January 15, 2010 at 0145 hours, Shoreline Police Sergeant Stan Seo observed a brown car parked on the north side of North 167th Street just east of the entrance to the two casinos, Drift on Inn and Club Hollywood. As he drove by the car, it appeared to be occupied so he stopped and backed up. As he was backing up he spotlighted the car and observed two African American males leaned back in the front driver and passenger seats. Sgt. Seo pulled in behind the car and was about to advise the Communication Center of his stop when the car pulled out. The trunk was open and the lid was opening and closing. Sgt. Seo turned on his lights and siren. The car refused to stop and a pursuit ensued.

In the 16300 block of Ashworth Avenue North the driver veered off to the east side of Ashworth and fled into a nearby yard.

Sgt. Seo detained the passenger of the car at gun point until other officers arrived. This suspect was taken into custody without incident.

Sgt. Seo looked into the car and saw what appeared to be a shotgun on the floor of the car on the driver’s side.

Officers set up a perimeter and called for a King County Sheriff’s Office K-9. Master Police Officer Eric Franklin did a quick sweep of the immediate area and found a black “puffy” jacket that the fleeing suspect appears to have discarded.

When the K-9 officer arrived, MPO’s Franklin and Muncy ran with him. They recovered a black glove near the crime scene.

So now what…………………..A Sgt. from the King County Sheriff’s Office is called to investigate the accident Sgt. Seo was involved in. During the pursuit Sgt. Seo was attempting to position his vehicle in a place to safely utilize the PIT (pursuit immobilization technique) when the suspect driving abruptly pulled over/stopped causing Sgt. Seo to collide with the rear of the suspect’s car. No one was injured in the accident.

Due to the nature of the incident the Command Duty Officer for the King County Sheriff’s Office was notified as well as our Chief of Police Dan Pingrey and Captain Stensland.

Also during this time King County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Detectives were notified. Detective Mike Mellis responded and interviewed and obtained a confession from the suspect in custody regarding his participation in the robberies. This suspect also provided the name of the suspect who had fled.

Additional investigation provided two separate addresses for the suspects, one in Edmonds and one in Seattle. Shoreline Detectives Coblantz and Inn were sent to watch the suspect’s house in Edmonds while a search warrant was written.

SeaTac detectives set up on a residence in the city of Seattle. Due to the violent nature of the crimes being investigated King County Sheriff’s Office TAC 30 team was called in to assist in surveillance and service of the warrant. (One Captain, one Sergeant and 15-20 TAC deputies)

When a TAC call of this nature goes out a number of ancillary detectives/deputies also respond.

While Detective Mellis is writing the search warrants for two residences and one car as well as an arrest warrant for the outstanding suspect, a number of things are happening simultaneously.

The initial crime scene at the casino is being processed and the case report for the felony pursuit is being written. Additional follow-up is completed to further positively identify the suspect and determine who may be inside the home with him. There are far too many things to list here but suffice it to say that writing a search warrant can be a complex process.

It’s up to one person to put everything together leading up to probable cause to arrest the suspect and enter two residences/one car looking for evidence of multiple crimes.

Because one of the residences was not in King County, Detective Mellis had to have the warrant signed by a Superior Court Judge in King County. (A drive to downtown Seattle and find a judge who has the time to review and approve the warrant)

During this same time a tactical briefing is beginning. It’s critical for officer safety and the safety of all involved to have the most up to date and current information regarding the locations to be searched which includes photographs, diagrams, status of others who may be living in the house. i.e. children (are there any, where are they, ages etc….).

The first search warrant was served at the residence in Edmonds at 1:35 pm. Remember the initial traffic stop happened shortly before 0200 am.

Once additional TAC members were in place we phoned inside the residence. Initially, the suspect said he wasn’t in the home but was at a restaurant in downtown Seattle.

Wrong answer! Remember we’d been watching the house for hours and knew he was inside.

Once the suspect realized he was had, he gave up and was arrested without incident. One of the suspects is 46 years old and a convicted felon. The other suspect is 34 years old and is also a convicted felon. Between the two they have prior convictions for robbery, drug related offenses, taking a motor vehicle without permission and weapons violations.

Does the investigation stop here? Nope. Once the house is secured Detectives move in to search for evidence. This can take hours. Typically, a diagram of the interior is drawn. Video and still photographs are taken of the exterior/interior and of any evidence recovered.

Each piece of evidence is then packaged and sealed. Each officer involved (including TAC) will write a report detailing their participation.

Are we done yet? Not yet! Remember the detectives from the City of Seatac watching a house in Seattle? They are still there, watching, waiting for members of the investigative team and TAC to serve the second search warrant at their location.

The second warrant was served at a residence in the Beacon Hill area. There were 12 occupants at that location. All went well.

The same process of photographing, video taping, and interviewing, collecting evidence takes place all over again. It’s now late evening and the detectives have been up since 2:00 in the morning.

Are we done now? Nope. A few hours of sleep and then Major Crimes Detectives serve a search warrant on the suspect’s car on Saturday morning. They recovered a loaded .357 revolver and a loaded .25 cal pistol as well as a toy shotgun and mask. Additional evidence was also recovered which was used in many of the robberies. Additional witnesses are identified and interviewed.

Based upon the evidence recovered a second search warrant was served on the Edmonds house on Tuesday and again additional evidence was recovered.

Detectives from all of the jurisdictions involved are now under the gun to get this investigation completed so that the case can be officially filed and the suspects charged and hopefully held. Detective Mellis has to file not only our case but coordinate with Renton, SeaTac, Lynnwood and Snohomish Sheriff’s Office. Because these crimes happened in two different counties and because of the seriousness of the crimes this case may be prosecuted federally.

Hopefully this has provided you with a bit of insight into the amount of resources needed to investigate a crime spree of this caliber.

As a contract City with the King County Sheriff’s Office all of the additional investigative resources to include TAC 30, Guardian One, K-9, Major Crimes Detectives, Hostage Negotiations etc…….are all readily available to us. (I can’t even begin to describe the type of equipment that comes along with these units i.e. robots, armored vehicles……..

In conclusion let’s remember that this all began with an observant Shoreline patrol sergeant! Thank you Sergeant Seo!

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