King County Crime Watch followups: Murder charge reduced; more on released car-ramming suspect

August 9, 2013 at 11:33 pm | In Crime, West Seattle news | 10 Comments

From King County online court documents, two followups of note tonight:

MURDER CHARGE REDUCED: A year and a half after 35-year-old Travis Hood was shot and killed just outside Morgan Junction Park, the charge faced by his suspected killer was reduced today to second-degree murder. Lovett Chambers, arrested at his Gatewood home shortly after the shooting in January 2012, originally was charged with first-degree murder. (Details of the alleged circumstances are in our original report published when that charge was filed.) Changes in charges often accompany plea bargains, but in this case, court documents indicate plans for a trial are still moving forward, though its start date was pushed back again, and is now penciled in as November 5th. The document noting the delay says more time is needed because, among other reasons, the defense is calling a witness specializing in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and self-defense, and prosecutors are preparing a response. The only reason given in documents for the reduced charge is that it “more accurately reflects the defendant’s conduct.” As soon as we found these documents, we put in a request for comment from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, but it was late in the day and we did not hear back, so we’ll ask again Monday.

CAR-RAMMING CASE: As first reported here Thursday night, the 23-year-old man suspected of stealing a pickup truck on Alki Tuesday and then ramming two other occupied cars – one, a Seattle Police car – was set free the day after his arrest. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office told us Thursday a judge (whom we have since confirmed through documents was District Court Judge Johanna Bender) did not find “probable cause” to keep him in custody until a decision on charges could be made. However, District Court files we found online today show that a $10,000 arrest warrant was issued for him that same day, because he hadn’t shown up for a court hearing on Monday related to a case involving an arrest July 13th in Seatac, with allegations of reckless driving and failure to comply with police. On July 15th, documents show, he was released on his own recognizance, despite a substantial criminal history.

10 Comments

  1. No probable cause to keep him in custody, although he’s accused of stealing a truck and intentionally ramming two occupied cars? How about keeping him in custody because he’s a clear threat to public safety?

    Comment by Robert — 9:34 am August 10, 2013 #

  2. Johanna’s Bender’s decision making in this case is baffling.

    Comment by West Seattle Hipster — 9:41 am August 10, 2013 #

  3. Thanks for the follow-up on the Judge’s name WSB.
    District Court Judge Johanna Bender.
    Time will tell if she made the right call, but in my book, she gets a “fail”.

    Comment by old timer — 10:12 am August 10, 2013 #

  4. The shooting at Morgan junction was so sad. The only way Chambers would have been charged with first degree murder was based on premeditation. I had a feeling after hearing the story, learning about the altercation that they would lessen the charges as things played out. Sorry to the family of Travis as this lessening does not feel like justice is being served. At the end of the day, even a first degree charge may have only landed Chambers in jail for 25 years, depending on good behavior and all. It’s incredible how long it all takes!

    Comment by WSrez — 10:15 am August 10, 2013 #

  5. Instead of the feds investigating the SPD, perhaps an outside investigation needs to be started on our district court system.
    With the multiple recent puzzling decisions not to charge alleged criminal behavior, I have to wonder if there is unethical behavior occurring.

    Comment by West Seattle Hipster — 11:41 am August 10, 2013 #

  6. WSH – to attempt to put some context in this: The charging decision ultimately comes from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. They in turn depend on the evidence turned in by Seattle Police – because it’s on them to decide if it’s something they think the person would be found guilty of, based on the evidence they have. But the first line – in this case- comes with a judge at a bail hearing finding probable cause to at least hold the person until the charging decision is made, or not. This is the first time in a long time that I recall hearing probable cause was NOT found. Then, comes the charging and bail decision, involving a Superior Court judge for the latter … same at arraignment … And at all these crucial stages, the judges hear many cases a day. Not to excuse or justify anything in particular, but you don’t get an individual judge assigned to an individual case until some time further down the road. What I gather from the source to whom I spoke in this particular case is that the lack of probable cause – which does not preclude charges – might have had something to do with the fact the suspect was not found in the truck, but was instead spotted nearby, and seemed to match the general description. I don’t know how quickly fingerprints can be processed but you’d hope those would subsequently figure into potential charges, as evidence, since I would imagine this guy has them on file from his previous cases – TR

    Comment by WSB — 12:39 pm August 10, 2013 #

  7. Great and informative response TR (as usual). I am just baffled by the recent West Seattle cases where career criminals are being treated very leniently, Kalameu Paulo and Alan Polevia specifically.

    It seems that the police are doing their jobs, but the justice system fails the community.

    Comment by West Seattle Hipster — 4:11 pm August 10, 2013 #

  8. insane that this guy keeps effing up and getting let back out to do it again and again and…

    Comment by flimflam — 10:11 am August 11, 2013 #

  9. Good follow up. The community certainly needs it.

    Comment by JoAnne — 4:07 pm August 11, 2013 #

  10. One would think that the courts have some way to cross check for warrants before allowing a career criminal to walk free.

    Seattle seems to have an increasingly frustrating “hands off” policy on just about everything, making this one of the nation’s most livable cities – for criminals.

    Comment by anonyme — 6:17 am August 12, 2013 #

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