After the news of the death of Tacoma Officer Jake Gutierrez last week, let’s start out with a few of our more routine incidents this week, but remember that there is no such thing as a “routine” call — and I explain that every time someone calls me to complain that three officers stopped at a traffic stop, or two officers showed up at a “minor” incident, or the officers “seemed edgy.” We don’t know what we are walking into. Ever.
Our first incident was titled “How to make a $1.98 theft into a major felony.”
One of our local frequent flyers entered a grocery store and proceeded to shoplift a bottle of soda worth $1.98. He left the store and was confronted within a block by Officer Jen Corn, who told him to stop several times. Of course, he ignored those commands, and she caught up to him and took him into custody.
He was resistive and refused to give a name or any information. The officer quickly determined who he really was, and also found out the man had been served with a trespass notice from that store in September.
That means the person has been told if they come back, they can be charged with a crime, and he illegally entered the store to commit the crime of theft, which makes it a felony burglary. Not smart.
You’re gonna need a bigger carport
Later last week, officers took a call of a van crashing into a carport in an apartment complex on Pine Road, where the driver found out that a 12-foot moving van does not, in fact, fit into a 6-foot carport. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
Two beers, of course
It would amaze you how often we see this with “designated drivers”: Officer Steven Forbragd arrested a suspected drunk driver last weekend after she told him she was the “designated driver” for her husband and other friends.
How much did she say she had to drink? You should know this by now if you are a regular reader … two beers, of course. She was actually over twice the legal limit.
It’s hard to pick just one
Officer John Bogen assisted another department with a cyber stalking case. It seems a local man engaged in an online relationship several years ago with someone and they exchanged intimate photos. The man kept some and they re-connected just recently.
The suspect became upset when she later got married to someone else. So the man then obtained the new husband’s email address and started sending those old photos.
Bad enough, but the woman in the photos was also underage. The man is in jail now for a felony.
As Sgt. Meade pointed out, “Moral of the story? There are so many, pick one.”
Officer Corn located a white Honda Accord in a parking lot last week just before midnight. The car had a flat tire and the two occupants were trying to change it, but didn’t have the right tools.
She noticed the driver was acting very nervous and made an obvious attempt to conceal the license plate by immediately opening the trunk. The passenger, on the other hand, was quite happy to see the officer and eager for the assistance she offered in helping change the tire.
The attempt at concealing the plate was ultimately unsuccessful, and you guessed it, the car was stolen. The driver, who had earlier been identified from security video from the parking garage where it had been stolen, was arrested. The passenger, who clearly had no clue what was going on, was released.
We received a call from the very grateful owner, not only because he got his car back, but he really appreciated the professionalism and excellent work of Officer Corn and Sgt. Tim Garrity.
Happy holidays: here’s a scam
In my almost 30 years in law enforcement, I have noticed that crime always rises before the holidays. Apparently, nothing expresses the holiday spirit for some people like a little fraud and theft.
This was exemplified this week by the news reports of the fraudulent “GoFundMe” pages for Officer Gutierrez that appeared almost instantly after his death. We have had several very specific incidents of fraud this week here in our city as well, and let me give you a warning on how they do it, so you can avoid it.
Just this week, we have taken several reports of Craigslist and internet sales site scams. Almost all reports we have taken involve the victim purchasing an item or a rental property. The suspects are from out of the area and request “deposits” and/or payments for the goods or rental properties.
These funds are requested to be sent via MoneyGram, and occasionally Western Union. The victims give the suspects the tracking number for these transactions. Once sent, these funds are collected immediately and there is no further contact from the people “selling” the non-existent goods.
This is a nationwide problem, and constitutes federal wire fraud. This is the FBI’s jurisdiction, but they often do not investigate each case. Losses from this type of crime have totaled well over $5,000 just from victims in our city, just this week.
Here’s the bottom line: Do not believe the sob stories the bad guys are giving, and do not send anything to anyone without confirmation of the information. If you are selling something, verify any payment is actually in your bank account before sending anything.
Shop with a Cop
“Shop With a Cop” was last weekend. Sgt. Aaron Elton got to pick the cause for the month, and Sgt. Elton presented our check to Lt. Penny Sapp of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, along with Sue Rufener of the Poulsbo Police Department. Penny and Sue help coordinate Shop With a Cop each year.
We can only hope
When Officer Gutierrez was killed last week, one of our officers, who had worked with him in Tacoma, went to join in the procession of officers who accompanied him from the hospital to the Medical Examiner’s Office.
Friday, there was a procession in Tacoma to the funeral home, and Officer Steven Forbragd was part of that event.
As Corporal Jason Vertefeuille wrote this week, “While following this story throughout the evening, it was somewhat reassuring to see the amount of support offered by the community in and around Tacoma. We can only hope this tide of violence and mistrust will soon turn, and maybe it already is.”
Gifts for us are gifts for the community
Let me end this week’s column with a couple great examples of people doing the right thing.
First, on Friday, a local resident, Jessica, and her son Zachary, wanted to do something for the police department and to show their support for their community and police.
They made up 15 bags of goodies, including protein bars, hand warmers and other items. Zachary got a tour, a stuffed animal, a badge and lots of great reinforcement from our officers. Our policy does not allow officers to take gifts, but they came up with a better plan. Officers will give these out to needy people we will undoubtedly be seeing this cold weekend.
Thanks Zachary, and thanks Jessica for raising a great young man!
The kind(ness) of people
Finally, you may remember the item last week about the person whose Army flag, which had been with them on their deployment, had been stolen while being displayed on their home. We have not recovered the original flag, but this week I did receive this email:
“Chief Strachan, I just finished reading this week’s e-news and the flag story kind of got to me. I went online and have found a duplicate flag for the resident in the story. I am going to order the flag and drop it by your office and would be much obliged if you or one of your officers wouldn’t mind delivering it to them. Is this possible?”
Great offer, but it gets better. I asked if the flag had been recovered, and one of our officers had already purchased an Army flag, as well as a new American flag that had been ripped. They had gone to get new mounting hardware at the Ace Hardware here in Bremerton, and the store would not let them pay for it once they knew why it was needed.
The officer had gone out and installed both flags, but did not want any attention or for me to name them in the newsletter.
These are the kind of people who serve our department, and police departments all across the country.
Officer Gutierrez and his family are in our thoughts.
Steven Strachan is the Bremerton Chief of Police. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.