(scroll down – we’re continuing to add elements as this story develops)
(Photo added 11:05 am – the recovered poles in Oregon)
As reported here late yesterday, police arrested a West Seattle man in connection with the theft of the 18′ totem pole from Rotary Viewpoint Park, which we first told you about last Thursday morning. When we reported that the suspect was in custody, police had just made the arrest and hadn’t yet figured out where the stolen pole was; this morning, they know. Southwest Precinct Lt. Steve Paulsen tells WSB that after extensive questioning, the suspect told them where it was: The Salem, Oregon, area. And Lt. Paulsen says police there already “have it in custody on a trailer in an impound lot” – he says it’s reported to be in good shape and does not appear to be damaged. Now they’re coordinating with the Parks Department to figure out how and when to bring it back here. Plus, Lt. Paulsen says, they “recovered another totem pole but can’t figure out where the other one belongs yet.” They also will be investigating whether the suspect is in possession of any other stolen property. We’re not identifying the suspect yet because (to our knowledge) charges are not yet filed – we can tell you he is a 69-year-old North Admiral resident, and the house where the crane driver said last weekend that he’d dropped it off is in the Lake Sawyer area. We didn’t publish this last weekend because no arrest had been made, but here’s a photo we took as the two sleuthing Rotarians (left and right) and the crane-truck driver went to knock on that house’s door last Saturday – note the Santa hat, left over from the Rotary’s Christmas Shopping Spree hours earlier:
Stay tuned for more followups. The Rotary Club of West Seattle, meantime, which donated the park and the pole to the city in 1976 – and made its own inquiries to try to help track down the pole (as detailed here) – tells us they’re working on coordinating an event for the pole’s return. 11:07 AM UPDATE: Adding photos provided by police (one above, one below), showing the recovered Rotary pole (and its mystery companion) in Oregon.
12:06 PM UPDATE: Just checked with Parks spokesperson Dewey Potter to see if there’s any info yet on their side regarding plans for the pole’s return. She says, “It’s my understanding that the pole will be in police custody as evidence for some amount of time (no clue yet how long that will be). … We’re all for a celebratory event to welcome the pole back to the people when the time is right.” 12:28 PM UPDATE: For the latest on Rotary’s plans on helping that happen, we just talked to past president Josh Sutton on camera at the viewpoint park – he explains how your help will be important:
(The website he mentions is westseattlerotary.org.) He added, “Rotary’s owned this totem pole in our hearts for a long time, but West Seattle owns this totem pole and we’re committed to getting it back to the folks of West Seattle in great shape.”
1:41 PM UPDATE: Just drove by the park and spotted Rotary sleuths Duane and Kenny being interviewed by KING5 – we didn’t park in time to get the photo op but did talk to Duane, who says he’s glad that Seattle Police have gone to great lengths to find the totem pole, and he’s now hopeful that prosecutors will go the extra mile to make sure justice is served. And one more note – just talked again with Josh Sutton, who says you can NOW donate through the Rotary website to pay for getting the pole back in place, with a community event, as soon as possible – he wants to stress, this is NOT meant to be in lieu of restitution from the suspect, but if and when the time comes that they get reimbursed that way, the money people have donated “will go to do good work in the West Seattle community.”
2:25 PM UPDATE: Answers to a couple followup questions we asked Lt. Paulsen at Southwest Precinct: 1. Will the crane truck driver face charges? Nothing’s final yet, but he notes that they are being very cooperative witnesses. 2. Is there a chance the stolen Tillicum Village storefront art work on Avalon (here’s our story from two months ago) is linked to all this? Too soon to say but Lt. Paulsen indicates they are actively investigating and more “recoveries” are possible.