Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Suspected meth lab on Vashon explodes, officials investigate


King County Sheriff's officers are investigating a Vashon property to see whether residents were manufacturing methamphetamine there, following an explosion Monday morning that leveled a backyard shed at the home.

At 7:25 a.m. Monday morning, neighbors heard a loud boom — an explosion coming from a large outbuilding located in the backyard of the woodsy property suspected of drug manufacturing, according to officials.

Vashon Island Fire & Rescue personnel responded to the scene and quickly doused the flames that had engulfed the storage building, which was approximately 20 feet square. All that remained after the fire was a 20-foot square pile of badly charred debris, hardly recognizable as having once been a building. No structural timbers or walls stood intact, and it was evident from the degree of the structure's demolition that Monday's explosion must have been a powerful one.

The residence, a rental home in the 24400 block of 129th Avenue S.W., had long been suspected of drug activity, said those who live nearby.

County records show that in 2006 the house was declared contaminated with dangerous chemicals used to make methamphetamine and was cleaned up and decontaminated in 2007.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive illegal stimulant drug that can be made by combining household or industrial chemicals. The drug, a federal Schedule 1 controlled substance, can be smoked, inhaled or injected, and its production and use is on the rise in rural areas, according to National Public Radio.

The manufacture of methamphetamine leaves behind a stubborn coating of toxic residue that is harmful to those who come in contact with it, according to the Meth Lab Cleanup Company, which serves Washington and other states.

After the home's 2007 cleanup, those who lived nearby had hoped the unsavory neighborhood saga would come to an end. But the drug activity had resurfaced in the past couple of years, according to residents' reports.

Neighbors had set up a "neighborhood watch" to keep tabs on the home, which they worried was a hotspot of illegal activity.

"It was a drug house for years," said Emma Amiad, who lives a few thousand yards from the home near Wax Orchard Road on southwest Vashon Island.

People had often been seen coming and going from the home, but little was known about its residents, said neighbor Chris Robison.

"A lot of people were concerned about it," he said. "It's always a question of what's going on there — and all the activity sounds like drug activity. ... You know what your neighbors are doing when you live on a dead-end road."

Neighbors had contacted police to discuss their suspicions about the blue manufactured home in the woods, but it was Monday's explosion that opened the door for law enforcement officials to investigate the property thoroughly.

On Monday afternoon, a squad of sheriff's officers stayed out of the rain in a mobile evidence processing lab truck, awaiting a search warrant for the house and adjoining property, said Lance Dauber, a King County Sheriff's sergeant with the hazardous devices and materials team.

"We are investigating a possible meth lab, and we've certainly found signs of it," he said. "We found a couple items commonly used in the manufacture of methamphetamine."

He cautioned that there was much still to investigate at the scene and that it's possible the items that had been found were not used in drug production.

Fire investigators and hazardous materials specialists planned to comb the property late Monday after receiving a warrant to search it, Dauber said.

The cause of the explosion was not yet apparent, he said.

The residents of the home appeared to be on the run, Dauber added. A neighbor reported seeing three people fleeing from the property just after the explosion occurred on Monday.

The Beachcomber was not able to contact the residents of the rental home or the property's owner, a man who, according to county documents, lives in Auburn.

Because the fugitives may have had burns or other injuries due to their proximity to the explosion, the King County Sheriff's officials instructed Vashon Health Center to enter lockdown mode on Monday morning, barring the doors and letting patients in one at a time, said Tina Isakson at the health center.

"We just wanted to make sure nobody wound up here with burns or something obviously from that scene," she said late Monday morning, after the center exited lockdown mode and returned to normal.

"We're still on alert," she added.

For neighbors, Monday's explosion and ensuing investigation may provide some relief to residents surrounding the suspected drug house.

"We're all hoping this will bring some resolution," said neighbor Rebecca Graves.

"Meth is a very bad toxic material," Amiad said. "This sort of thing shouldn't be tolerated."

This article was originally published in the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber on January 4, 2010.

UPDATE: Marshal gives description of Coupeville pharmacy armed robber


Police have issued a description of the man who robbed Linds Pharmacy and Drug at gunpoint at 10:20 a.m. Monday in Coupeville.

In an email press release sent Monday afternoon, Coupeville Town Marshal David Penrod described the robber as approximately 5-feet, 6-inches tall, weighing 150 pounds. He was wearing a dark colored hooded jacket or sweatshirt, dark colored jeans, a black mask, and brandished a silver handgun.

Deputies with the Coupeville Marshal’s Office were on scene within one minute, closely followed by the Island County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies conducted an extensive search of the immediate area, but were unable to locate the suspect.

Coupeville deputies, Island County Sheriff's deputies and State Patrol troopers' vehicles flashed their lights along Main Street, Highway 20 and Broadway Avenue in an effort to set up a perimeter around the pharmacy.

"You've got to plug up the holes you know you have," said Lt. Evan Tingstad with the Island County Sheriff's Office.

Coupeville schools were locked down for more than an hour while deputies checked the areas surrounding them.

There were eight people in the store at the time of the robbery, including a pharmacist, two pharmacy assistants, two technicians and three college students who were helping with store inventory, general manager Adam Lind said. No one was injured during the robbery.

"The crew is a little shaken up," he said.

The man cleared out the pharmacy's supply of OxyContin, a highly addictive prescription pain medication.

"He took everything we had on the shelf in every strength," Lind said.

Investigators dusted for finger prints and lifted a shoe print the robber left after he vaulted over the front counter on his way out, Lind said.

The pharmacy remained open after the robbery and continued to filled prescription requests by customers who seemed unaware of the morning heist.

Law enforcement officials are continuing to investigate the incident and review the store's video surveillance system.

"The suspect is still at large and the investigation is being conducted by the Island County Sheriff’s Office with the assistance of the Coupeville Marshal’s Office," Marshal Penrod wrote in the press release.

A Skagit County Sheriff's Office search dog and handler were initially called in to help with the search effort. The unit was called off because officials couldn't find anything to give the animals a scent trail, according to Island County Sheriff Mark Brown.

During the lock down, Coupeville Elementary School kids were kept in classrooms and the windows were blacked out. The exterior doors were locked at the high school and middle school. The district lifted the lock down at 11:45 a.m.

Anyone with information regarding the crime should contact Detective Sgt. Mike Beech of the Island County Sheriff’s Office, 678-4422, or call 911. Anonymous tips may be left with the Island County Tip Line at 679-7319.

More details about the lockdown and the reported robbery to follow.

This article was originally published in the Whidbey News Times on January 4, 2010.

Jenny Manning can be reached at jmanning@whidbeynewstimes.com.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Snohomish deputy shoots, kills man in Bothell


BOTHELL -- A Snohomish County sheriff's deputy fatally shot a man during an altercation at a Bothell apartment complex early Thursday.

Police spokesman Robert Goetz did not say exactly what prompted the deputy to fire or whether the other man was armed.

Investigators said the incident began as a domestic dispute between a man, his daughter and the daughter's boyfriend just after 1 a.m. Police said the three lived together at the Archstone Northcreek apartments in the 20200 block of Bothell-Everett Highway

"It's not clear what happened inside the apartment," Goetz said.

When the deputy arrived, he found the man, the boyfriend and another man in the parking lot.

Some sort of altercation ensued and the deputy fired, hitting the boyfriend, who died on the way to a hospital.

"Something happened in that parking lot - some sort of disturbance - confrontation between the deputy and that individual. And shots were fired by the deputy, striking this male and killing him here at the scene."

The victim's name has not been released.

The deputy was not injured and investigators are still trying to piece together exactly what happened. Neighbors reported having heard yelling and gunshots being fired.

"The other male that was outside when the deputy arrived is a witness. He's a pretty key witness," Goetz said. "Once we have an opportunity to interview this independent witness we should have a more clear picture to provide to you."

That third man later told investigators that felt threatened by the boyfriend, and felt his life was in danger.

Goetz said the dead man's girlfriend is pregnant and was taken to the hospital to be checked out. Her father was also taken to a hospital to be treated for a stab wound to the face.

Detectives expected to be at the apartment complex for several hours collecting evidence and interviewing the people involved.

Investigators said the deputy is a 2-year veteran of the force and worked in law enforcement in the years prior. They said he had not discharged his weapon in public prior to Thursday's incident.

Authorities say survivalist is suspected car thief spotted in Bellevue


Federal and state law-enforcement agencies have identified Bradley Steven Robinett as the man who jumped from a stolen Honda Pilot and avoided arrest after troopers spotted him at the Eastgate Park and Ride Nov. 24.

Robinett is believed to be armed at all times and possibly equipped with body armor. He is also known to be a survivalist who runs 3 miles per day, according to the State Patrol.

The Honda Pilot that authorities last saw him in was rigged with a curtain that snapped to the roofline to conceal his presence. The vehicle was reported stolen from the Portland area and bore a set of plates stolen in Vancouver, Wash.

Bainbridge Island police had a run-in with Robinett on Sept. 12, when they spotted him with another stolen Honda Pilot bearing stolen plates. Officers recovered a stolen handgun and stolen body armor in that case.

The State Patrol suspects Robinett was casing a bank when troopers spotted him at the Eastgate Park and Ride.

Robinett has an outstanding felony warrant for escape and unlawful possession of a firearm. The FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, Washington State Patrol, and Bainbridge Island Police are among the agencies now looking for him.

The State Patrol says Robinett is probably living in stolen vehicles or outdoors in a secluded area.

This article was originally published in the Bellevue Reporter on December 30, 2009.
Joshua Adam Hicks can be reached at jhicks@bellevuereporter.com.

Man arrested after brief standoff in Sea-Tac bathroom


A man was arrested Friday evening after barricading himself in a rest room at Sea-Tac International Airport.

The incident did not cause any evacuations or flight delays, port officials said.

The man entered a small one-room family restroom in the airport just after 6 p.m. and refused to come out.

He told Port of Seattle police that he had a gun and wanted to fly somewhere but didn't have a ticket.

Airport officials shut down the south checkpoint, which is located behind the international flights ticket desk, and re-routed passengers through other checkpoints while negotiators spent more than two hours trying to convince the man to come out.

The restroom was not located near any gates, and there was only one door, so the man had no access to any other location.

The man was arrested about 7:45 p.m., but it was not immediately clear how police got the man out of the bathroom.

Officials said he was never armed.