At right is a state photo of 48-year-old Benjamin Laigo III, taken three days before his release from Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in southeastern Washington two and a half weeks ago. Today, county prosecutors charged him with first-degree robbery and attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle. They say he held up a West Seattle woman at 37th and Alaska (as reported here on Sunday, after her husband e-mailed us about the crime) and then took off in a stolen car, with police pursuing before long, until he crashed the car on Airport Way.
As reported here on Tuesday, Laigo has a lengthy record. He went to prison in 2006, sentenced to 14 years in connection with multiple robberies, including a holdup on Valentine’s Day 2006 at the Wells Fargo Bank in The Admiral District. Documents from the sentencing that year say he made off with more than $11,000. The 2006 robberies followed his release from prison – how closely, we don’t know – after 10 years in prison for five robbery convictions in 1996. Prosecutors say that because of those cases, this one will be his “third strike” if convicted, and that’s why they asked the judge to set bail at half a million dollars. A deputy prosecutor wrote in today’s documents, “The defendant’s criminal history is horrendous and shows a 20-year pattern of violent offenses following long periods of incarceration.” The charging papers say the woman Laigo is accused of robbing in West Seattle was knocked to the ground and was bleeding from her head and hands when people rushed to help her after he stole her purse and took off. Witnesses told police they saw the robber holding a black handgun.
The white Fiat witnesses say they saw the robber jump into was spotted on the eastbound bridge by an SPD officer who followed it onto northbound I-5, waiting for backup before activating lights and sirens. The car checked as having been stolen in an armed carjacking on lower Queen Anne Hill the night before. Officers started trying to stop it when the car exited at James Street downtown; they say it was being driven erratically for a few blocks before getting back onto I-5, southbound this time, going up to 75 mph in light rain, traveling about three miles until getting off the freeway at Airport Way, and eventually going the wrong way onto a ramp to get back onto I-5, stopping after crashing into another car whose driver was hurt, as was Laigo, who police say they found alone in the Fiat. He had his Department of Corrections ID card on him in the car. Retracing the path of the pursuit, police found the West Seattle robbery victim’s purse near 5th and Lander.
Laigo is not charged yet in connection with the carjacking. Its victim told police that the man who robbed her pointed a black handgun at her and said, “I need your car, look normal, no one will help me.” He took her keys and asked her how to use the key remote, but warned her not to look at him. Laigo is due back in court for arraignment – to answer the charges – the day before Thanksgiving.
P.S. We wondered while writing the previous story about the “time off for good behavior” law that apparently is what enabled Laigo to serve roughly two-thirds of his previous terms for multiple robberies. We found details of the policy here.