What you see in that photo is the aftermath of one of dozens of rock- and brick-throwing incidents that targeted residents and drivers in West Seattle, mostly the Admiral area, over the past few months – in this case, the brick was thrown through the glass door of a home, causing almost a thousand dollars damage, as well as a psychological toll. The victim tells WSB, “The greatest impact was not the financial aspect but the random act of vandalism and violence. The sound of the brick through the glass and not knowing what it was. Then the fear and uncertainty. My poor dog was traumatized and has been jumpy since.” It’s a miracle none of these incidents hurt anyone; in past cases in other areas, this sort of attack has been deadly. We told you about the first two arrests; now we know that Southwest Precinct police have identified and talked with four suspects in all — three are 13 years old, one is 14. But what we didn’t know till talking further with the folks at the precinct is the backstory of how Officer Patrick Chang cracked the case, if you’ll pardon the phrase – it involves confessions, MySpace bragging, and more:
First, let’s go back to the first we heard of all this – exactly one month ago – with the brick-throwing incident reported by the victim and posted on the WSB Crime Watch page.
Then, on January 31, a reader report of the first arrest.
The next day, police confirmed the arrest and the fact they were looking for two other suspects. Last Wednesday came word of a second arrest; the third one happened after that, and then the fourth.
At first, police didn’t know there was a fourth suspect – till Officer Chang’s sleuthing work revealed the full scope of what and who was involved. #4 is a 14-year-old ninth-grader who lives with his grandmother in West Seattle. According to the report Officer Chang filed after talking with the fourth suspect last Thursday night, the boy first said the others were throwing rocks, but he had only been throwing “pine cones.”
Then, he said, he did throw some rocks — but only at his friends. As he continued to talk, the officer wrote, he continued changing his story. Continuing to work on how to get to the truth, Officer Chang told the boy he would like to be shown where his friends had been throwing rocks. He and his guardians agreed. He directed Officer Chang to an area near the Delridge Community Center, where he said he and his friends hid behind trees and threw things at cars on 26th SW. He continued to insist he himself had only thrown “pine cones.” But when the officer asked what might happen if they went to see the boy’s friends and asked if he had thrown rocks at cars, he said, “It’s hard.” Officer Chang asked, “Hard to tell the truth?” The boy: “Yeah.” He then admitted he had thrown rocks at cars not only near the community center, but also in the 3800 block of Admiral, and the 3700 block of Admiral, where he showed the officer a tall hedge with a fence where he said he and two others had thrown rocks at cars passing on Admiral and then hid.
That matched information Officer Chang already had obtained; he and the suspect talked more at the precinct, at which time, according to the police report, the boy “admitted to throwing approximately 45 rocks at moving cars … He admitted to hitting 5-6 cars. (He) also admitted to throwing Christmas decoration light bulbs at cars, pine cones at cars, rocks at houses, and also using the slingshot to propel a rock and tennis ball at cars. (He) also confirmed he has been involved in illegal graffiti … All these incidents occurred in December 2007 and January 2008.”
Later, the officer writes, after being taken home and released to the custody of his grandmother, the boy admitted to her “that he had lied earlier, and gave her the true version of events.”
At the end of the boy’s four-page statement, Officer Chang asked him, “What have you learned from all this?” His reply: “I’ve learned it’s stupid to do illegal things and that I’m never going to do it again. Also not to hang out with bad kids.”
We also have additional information about the second and third suspects in the case, both just 13 years old. We’ll call them Suspect #2 and #3, as they are described in the police reports; Officer Chang learned about them during the investigation following the arrest of Suspect #1.
Most notably, #2 actually had a MySpace page where, in big bold lettering, he had set his status as “… running from the popo!” (slang for police) and elsewhere on his MySpace site, in similarly big lettering, it said “THE POPO WILL NEVER CATCH ME!” (Later in this story, you’ll see how that online boast later changed.)
The first of the two whom Officer Chang talked with was Suspect #3, who admitted he and #2 had been throwing rocks at cars and houses since December. Police had been in previous contact with them regarding “possession of Air Soft pistols.” He said he had thrown rocks at cars “about 18” times, and also pointed out the 3700-3900 block of Admiral, saying the rocks were obtained from a planting strip in the 3800 block of Admiral.
A few days later, Officer Chang talked with Suspect #2, who he discovered was named on a warrant for theft. He too admitted involvement in the rock-throwing, saying he had thrown rocks at cars on about 50 occasions, maybe 400 rocks that he thought hit about 60 cars – and also 3 or 4 houses. According to the police account of their conversation, this suspect “explained that it all started in December after they stole Christmas decoration lights from the Youth & Family Services building there [on Delridge] and threw light bulbs at passing cars. Then one day [suspect #3] (had) the idea of throwing rocks instead, so they all began throwing rocks.” He showed Officer Chang the same stretch of Admiral Way, as well as a spot at Admiral and Walnut, at the west end of the Admiral Bridge.
In his subsequent official statement, Suspect #2 “described how one of his thrown rocks cracked the front passenger window of a newer model silver station wagon … that vehicle contained two occupants, one was sitting in the front passenger seat … (He) also described how he and (suspect #3) each threw a brick at the front door window of (a house on Admiral) … threw rocks and broke windows out at a house near Madison Middle School …” and broke out windows with rocks at a home in the 3200 block of 46th SW.
While talking with this suspect, Officer Chang asked, “What was your intent in throwing these rocks?” The boy’s answer: “We really didn’t have a purpose … we were just messing around.” Asked why he wrote about “running from the popo” on MySpace, he replied, “‘Cause I was feeling cocky.”
It should be noted that after his arrest, the page later changed to “(user) got arrested by Seattle Popo,” “(user) got arrested and CHANG’ED,” and “THE POPO DID CATCH ME!”
Finally, we have the story of Suspect #3, who also admitted to Officer Chang what he had done. He said he recalled throwing rocks on up to 18 separate days in December and January, at least 50 rocks in all, perhaps hitting up to 15 cars. He told the story of the day the rock-throwing stopped: “When (suspect #2) threw the rock at that one car and (suspect #1, the first arrested) got caught. … I was going to the library to work on my school project. And when I finished, I decided to go to Jack in the Box because I was hungry … And then (he, suspects #1 and #2) just started hanging out. (Suspect #2) threw a rock at a red truck. It was parked in a little cul-de-sac. And that’s when the guy in the white minivan car whatever said, ‘Hey you little s—s, get over here!’ And then he started chasing us. … I jumped over a little fence and I hopped on a Metro bus to get away from the area.”
He and suspect #2 weren’t arrested till days later, but they both knew #1 was arrested that night.
So now, all four suspects have been contacted and have confessed. The question is what will happen to them in terms of charges and court action; the next step is up to King County juvenile prosecutors. Information on such cases is not easy to get because of confidentiality laws, but we will let you know whatever we are able to find out.