VIDEO: Auburn police let suspected vehicle thief go, citing new laws

State laws passed earlier this spring require police to have probable cause to engage in a pursuit.

Auburn Police let the driver of a stolen vehicle escape on Sept. 1, and said they couldn’t pursue the vehicle because of the new state police reform laws.

The following information is taken from the Auburn Police Department’s Facebook press release:

At 2:30 p.m. Aug. 31, a woman called 911 to report that her white 2016 Lexus RX had been stolen from her at gunpoint. The woman was able to identify the suspect in a photo montage.

The woman’s Lexus was equipped with a Lojack GPS system and the woman activated the GPS.

The next day, Sept. 1, King County’s Guardian One helicopter received the pings from the Lexus’s GPS and was able to locate the Lexus.

The Lexus was seen pulling into a parking lot, and passengers left the car, but were not identified. After the passengers left the car, the Lexus drove away, still being followed by the helicopter and police on the ground.

At some point, the Auburn police said they lost sight of the Lexus, despite being followed by police on the ground and in the air.

Auburn police said they didn’t have probable cause and could not pursue the vehicle because of the new police reform laws passed earlier this year. ESB 1054 prohibits police from engaging in pursuits unless there is probable cause that the person in the vehicle has committed a violent offense or sex offense.

Because a day had passed since the armed carjacking, it’s possible the driver wasn’t the same person who committed the armed robbery, so police couldn’t pursue, according to the Auburn Police Department.

On Sept. 3, the King County Sheriff’s Office recovered the stolen vehicle after all, so a pursuit wasn’t necessary to recover the vehicle.

State Rep. Jesse Johnson (D-District 30), who sponsored the bills regulating use of force and police pursuits, said the Auburn police responded exactly how they should have in that situation.

“I do think the course of action taken by the Auburn Police Department was probably the right course of action based on the law,” Johnson said.

However, Auburn police didn’t give all the context as to why pursuit wasn’t the right choice, Johnson said. Given the greater context of the situation, a high-speed pursuit would have been exceedingly dangerous, Johnson said. It was 3:30 p.m., there was a lot of pedestrian and vehicle traffic, and in addition, schools were just let out, so engaging in a high-speed pursuit would have put the public in harm’s way, Johnson said.

“I think they did the right thing by not doing a high-speed chase,” Johnson said.

Johnson said unlike in this situation in Auburn, he has noticed other cases in which police departments have chosen not to pursue a vehicle, citing the new law, when in reality, they could have.

“There was a situation in Tukwila where a guy was driving on the wrong side of the road and he had stolen a vehicle and they decided not to pursue because they said they didn’t have probable cause,” Johnson said. “But a number of law enforcement folks have said ‘well if he’s driving on the wrong side of the road, that’s reasonable suspicion for DUI because obviously he’s not in the right state of mind. So that should have been pursued.’”

Police pursuits are dangerous for the officer, the suspect and the general public. A study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that between 1996 and 2015, police pursuits killed 102 people in Washington state alone. Of the 102 people who died, 20 were bystanders in vehicles and five were pedestrians, according to the study.

By not engaging in the pursuit, Auburn police didn’t risk the public’s safety and were able to recover the vehicle anyway.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bothell-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bothell-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Northwest

Gov. Jay Inslee talks about schools reopening during a past news conference. (Screenshot courtesy of TVW)
Masks required at big outdoor events; vaccine mandates expanded

Governor’s mask order takes effect Sept. 13.

This is a screenshot that shows the pursuit of a stolen vehicle Sept. 1 on Interstate 5 in King County.
VIDEO: Auburn police let suspected vehicle thief go, citing new laws

State laws passed earlier this spring require police to have probable cause to engage in a pursuit.

Juanita High School student Ria Mahon. Courtesy photo
Student brings awareness to menstrual health among Puget Sound’s homeless

When Ria Mohan, a junior of Juanita High School in Kirkland, had… Continue reading

Matt Axe, the Wildfire and Forest Resiliency Coordinator with the King Conservation District, speaks to homeowner Anita Kissee-Wilder about fire reduction strategies at her home in North Bend on Aug. 24. Photo by Conor Wilson/Valley Record.
King County braces for more wildfires in rural areas

Firefighters have already responded to a number of large fires.

t
New data dashboard tracks COVID-19 risk for unvaccinated, vaccinated people

Information compiled by Public Health – Seattle & King County

This 2019 security footage at the Cenex gas station in Black Diamond shows Anthony Chilcott on his phone before entering, and driving off with, Carl Sanders’ Ford Raptor and Monkey, his poodle, in the front seat. Courtesy photo
Oversight office releases scathing report on King County Sheriff’s Office

Report analyzes 2019 killing of Anthony Chilcott by deputies.

Close-up hand using phone in night time on street. File photo
King County Council steps closer to establishing hate crime hotline

The program is aimed at reducing the number of unreported hate crimes.

A Link light rail train travels underneath the University of Washington during testing to open the new line to Northgate. COURTESY PHOTO, Sound Transit
Northgate Link light rail testing moves into final stages

Three new north Seattle stations opening Oct. 2

Gov. Jay Inslee (left) bumps elbows with Auburn Vaccine Clinic staff member Mary Johnson (right) on June 22, 2021. Inslee visited the clinic to promote vaccinations in lower King County. Photo by Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing
COVID-19 surge puts strain on local hospitals

Delta is the predominate strain in Washington.

C-17 at Joint Base Lewis McChord airstrip. (Photo courtesy of United States Military)
King County Councilman calls for plan to help Afghan refugees settle here

Washington state expects roughly 6,000 refugees to come from Afghanistan.