CRIME WATCH FOLLOWUP: Suspect charged in hit-run death of Tommy Joe Garrett, booked into jail three days after first release

(Victim’s photo, as displayed at April 27 vigil)

2:02 PM: The man initially accused in the hit-run death of 81-year-old Tommy Joe Garrett, then released when a judge disagreed with prosecutors’ charging proposal, has been charged after all. Thanks to commenter K for the tip; the King County Jail roster shows 37-year-old Isaiah L. Cooper of Puyallup has been in custody since last Thursday, after the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed a charge of felony hit-and-run two days before that – the day after he was released from jail. The jail docket indicates Cooper’s bail is set at half a million dollars. We’ll add details from the charging documents later.

4:00 PM: The charging document suggests what the additional evidence might be – a warrant to uncover the car. Here’s how the document summarizes the allegation – warning that it includes a graphic description of the collision:

On Monday evening on April 22, 2024, the defendant, 37-y-o Isaiah Lewis Cooper, was driving his Jeep Compass in the White Center neighborhood of King County. He went to a McDonald’s where he is seen driving. No one is seen in the passenger seat. There is no apparent damage to the hood of the car. He is not seen responding to anyone in the rear seat. This is captured on video.

Approximately 5-minutes later, and a couple blocks from the McDonald’s, at 10:09 p.m., 82-year-old Thomas Joseph Garrett was walking in the crosswalk of SW Roxbury St and 15 Av SW. Video shows a Jeep, later identified as the defendant’s, strike Mr. Garrett. The impact caused Mr. Garrett to fly onto the hood of the defendant’s vehicle and he is carried on the defendant’s car hood for approximately three seconds. The defendant brakes, causing Mr. Garrett to roll off the hood and onto the road. The defendant then continued to drive eastbound on Roxbury, leaving Mr. Garrett abandoned in the roadway. The traffic behind the defendant comes to a stop, as bystanders halt traffic and call for help. Both law enforcement and medics attempted to perform aid on Mr. Garrett before he was transported to Harborview Hospital, where he was pronounced dead within the hour of the collision.

Based on the surveillance and eyewitness reports, investigators were able to identify the defendant in the driver’s seat at the McDonalds. The defendant’s cell data corroborates that he was within 148’ of the collision. It also showed that he went to Port Orchard on 4/24/2024. His car was later recovered from his father’s house in Port Orchard. It was covered with a tarp and the defendant’s father confirmed that the defendant dropped it off and covered it “several weeks ago.”

On May 16, 2024, law enforcement contacted the defendant. He admitted that he had been in the vicinity of the collision on 4-22-2024 and that he subsequently left his car in Port Orchard. He denied hitting anyone. The Jeep was seized with the cover still on pending a search warrant to uncover it.

The case prosecutor then goes on to write that she “received the following information” from the “primary investigating detective”:

On May 20, King County Superior Court Judge J. Bender approved a Search Warrant to uncover the suspect vehicle. According to King County Det. Skaar, the uncovering revealed damage on the hood of the car consistent with a low-speed pedestrian collision. Specifically, Det Skaar stated that he observed multiple dents along the edge of the hood up to the back edge of the hood to the right of the center line, consistent with the damage that he would expect based on the video of the pedestrian strike on 4-22-2024. The license plate, which had been properly on the front bumper of the Jeep on the night of the collision at the McDonald’s was now moved from bumper to passenger side dashboard.

We noted in a previous report that Cooper’s record was said to include “numerous driving violations”; the charging document lists them – scattered over the past 15 years – as DUI, reckless driving, driving with a suspended license, no insurance, speeding, failure to yield to an emergency vehicle, driving on the wrong side of the road, and making a false statement to law enforcement, as well as Seattle Municipal Court warrants for a 2019 case alleging “no interlock” and suspended license. Cooper is scheduled for arraignment – the hearing at which a defendant enters an initial plea – next Monday, June 3.

ADDED TUESDAY: KCPAO spokesperson Casey McNerthney says this is why the first attempt to charge Cooper was rejected: “It was not clear on the initial submission that additional investigation that had to be done by police on the day of the second appearance was submitted under the penalty of perjury. It was resubmitted with that being clear, and the court approved the charges. (Courts are only allowed to consider facts submitted under the penalty of perjury.)”

15 Replies to "CRIME WATCH FOLLOWUP: Suspect charged in hit-run death of Tommy Joe Garrett, booked into jail three days after first release"

  • Curious George May 27, 2024 (2:29 pm)

    I still don’t understand why he was released to start with?  Look what he is accused of.  Look at the evidence.  We need to replace these Judges come election time.

    • WSB May 27, 2024 (3:22 pm)

      This is a lesser charge than what he was potentially under investigation for previously – early documentation had suggested vehicular homicide or “hit and run death.” Regarding replacing judges, as we noted in a previous story, when filing week ended, none of the 50+ Superior Court judge positions on this year’s ballot had drawn more than one candidate.

    • Bbron May 27, 2024 (4:06 pm)

      looking forward to seeing you on the ballot sometime soon, George since you like to comment like you’re qualified

    • Bill May 28, 2024 (7:26 am)

      Only about 1 out of every 10 runs with any opposition !

  • K May 27, 2024 (3:39 pm)

    He was released because the prosecutor did not present evidence to the judge that met the requirements of the charge they were seeking.  The evidence they had did meet the requirements for this charge, and so the charge was allowed.  They’re judges, not psychics.  They can only rule on the evidence presented to them.  It’s not clear if it was the investigators or the prosecutor that fumbled in getting the proper evidence to the judge for the more serious charge, but judges do not issue their rulings in a vacuum.  

    • WSB May 27, 2024 (3:44 pm)

      I’m adding to the story shortly but the documents indicate that on the same day the suspect was released, a judge granted a search warrant to uncover the car, leading to the discovery of what is described as additional evidence. No time mentioned though, so we don’t know (yet) whether that was before or after the hearing at which his release was ordered.

  • 1994 May 27, 2024 (10:18 pm)

    Driving is not a right. This guy has a history of poor decisions regarding driving and he is now right where he earned himself a place, behind bars.  Thanks WSB for following up on this sad sequence of events. 

  • SadforMr.Garrett May 27, 2024 (11:15 pm)

    What a tragic way to die when you’ve made it to 82 years old.  Good job law enforcement team and witnesses. May justice be served to the victim and his loved one. What terrible terrible person is someone who runs over someone leaves the scene. 

  • anonyme May 28, 2024 (6:04 am)

    In addition to a lengthy prison sentence, this guy should never be allowed to drive again.

  • rico May 28, 2024 (11:30 am)

    Can anyone run for Judge, or only lawyers?

  • rico May 28, 2024 (5:26 pm)

    Given the fact that the legal community holds the reins on these important positions, it seems that the “legal community” is to blame for the glaringly stark lack of options.   Are there any efforts being made to get that “community” to feel more responsible for staffing these positions (that only they can hold)?  Seems somewhat irresponsible, broadly speaking.  Maybe there can be some discussions to open up these positions to a broader range of people, beyond what the WAC currently allows. 

    • K May 28, 2024 (7:01 pm)

      Definitions of crimes, what the prosecutor needs to show in terms of evidence to charge someone with a given crime, and sentencing guidelines are all established by the legislature, who runs opposed every time and you have the full power to elect.  Judges are not working in a vacuum, they’re interpreting and applying the law as it is written.  By the legislature.  If you want to make a difference, pay attention to state senate and representative races.  Ask about more than general ideas about Law & Order, ask what their thoughts are on judicial discretion and the existing sentencing grid.  How felony points are counted.  Why crimes committed with cars are automatically lesser felonies than the same crime committed with a gun.  Ask if they supported HB 1227.  Your legislature is making the rules the judges are enforcing.  Ask more questions at the next local election.

    • KBear May 28, 2024 (8:14 pm)

      Definitely in favor of judges coming from the “legal community”

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