By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“It is unfortunate what took place …”
That’s what a Kent Police Department commander tells WSB in response to our inquiries about what happened after that agency found a vehicle stolen in West Seattle and turned over to its owner.
We first reported two Fridays ago about that vehicle, stolen from local restaurateur Dan Austin (owner of WSB sponsor Peel & Press). Then last Thursday, Austin let us know that his car had been found by Kent Police (outside the Des Moines Goodwill, which is in Kent city limits) – but, as he put it in the report we published Thursday night, “Here is the weird thing, I have stolen mail and property in the car but the police wouldn’t take it. They said it was mine to deal with. I find this insane!!! I have a stolen bike and several pairs of glasses, electronics, stolen mail from all over and gym bags. What am I going to do with these??? I refuse to toss them because, as someone who just had my car stolen, I want to help people get their things back!”
Trying to deal with those things added insult to the injury of his car theft, which left him with a damaged vehicle and trashed interior that reeked of a variety of substances.
The items he most hoped to get back – the car seats for his young children – were gone. And there he was, stuck with piles of stuff, from the personal documents shown in the top photo – belonging to a variety of people including one person who, that paperwork said, had recently gotten out of jail after an arrest for suspected forgery – to mail, to eyeglasses:
At one point after Austin talked with the Southwest Precinct, Seattle Police were going to take possession of the items – an officer was there when we stopped by Austin’s house on Friday afternoon to take the photos you see in the story; we rushed over because at the time he thought they were about to be taken away.
Kent Police, however, were still in the loop, and according to the SPD officer, were arguing about what to do, so the Seattle officer left. And there was Austin, still in possession of other people’s stuff. Finally, he told us, a Kent officer was sent on Saturday and the items were taken away. “The whole situation still seems really messed up, and I wonder how many people never get their items returned because cops don’t want to take the time to inventory or retrieve it.”
We tried calling Kent PD on Friday afternoon, but were unable to reach spokesperson Commander Jarod Kasner. Today, we e-mailed him to ask about the situation, and he replied, calling it “unfortunate circumstances … Mr. Austin should not have beared the responsibility of re-contacting us in this situation; however, once we were re-contacted a Kent Officer responded to his location and collected the items that Mr. Austin had in his possession. We are reaching out to other police agencies in an attempt to locate the identified owners of the property that was collected.”
Commander Kasner also addressed Austin’s concern about being told that the two people found in his car wouldn’t face prosecution: “In this type of case we have to establish ‘knowledge’ that the vehicle was stolen. Arresting the suspect on his confirmed warrant allows us to investigate further and establish the required ‘knowledge/ aspect of the crime. The case was referred to the Detective Unit and it is anticipated that criminal charges surrounding the stolen vehicle will be filed.”
Overall, Kasner said, “It is unfortunate what took place and although I have not had an opportunity to obtain all the information, it appears that in this incident we did not provide the service that is expected or normally given. I would like to express that we take all crimes serious and we will be investigating why the situation was handled in the fashion in which it was. The information that will be obtained from our investigation, good or bad, will allow us to correct and change what is needed to maintain a high level of service, which is expected.”
Meantime, Austin tells WSB, “I am glad to hear that they acknowledge that this was not the way it should have happened. I am relieved to have the items under the control of the proper authorities. I would still like to know why the call was made to leave this stolen property with me … I still have a lot of respect for law enforcement but right now I have a lot of questions as well.”
SIDE NOTE: The oddest item we noticed, from everything Austin found in the car, next to somebody’s empty pill container: