By Eric Stevick Herald Writer
LAKE STEVENS — It could have been a deadly encounter.
It was late Monday night when Lake Stevens police officer Andrew Thor gave chase to a man accused of theft for not paying a taxi fare.
The suspect, 35, ran into a supermarket. He burst through some double doors and fell to the floor of a storage area in the back of the store. The man then quickly turned onto his back and pulled out what appeared to be a black Beretta handgun.
He pointed it at Thor with his finger on the trigger.
The officer feared for his life.
“There was no doubt in my mind that he wasn’t playing around,” Thor said.
Thor didn’t have time to draw his service revolver, but had already had an electronic stun gun in his hand.
The officer zapped the suspect with a paralyzing electric shock, then held him down while calling for backup. Officers from Lake Stevens, Monroe and the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office heard over their police radios that the suspect had a gun. They quickly swarmed to the location in the 700 block of Highway 9.
“He did extremely well,” Lake Stevens police Sgt. Robert Miner said. “In fact, the suspect is very lucky he didn’t get shot.”
The suspect, who reportedly wore two coats beneath a leather jacket, kept resisting, court papers said. Thor zapped him with the stun gun a second time to subdue him.
Once the suspect was handcuffed, police were able to retrieve the weapon.
It was a toy, a remarkably realistic air-soft weapon with the dimensions and appearance of an actual handgun, court papers said.
“It looked like a real Beretta,” Miner said.
Thor said it was a convincing replica.
“When he rolled over and all I saw was the barrel of what I thought was a real gun, it was at that second I thought I have to hit him with something and the Taser was out,” Thor said.
The suspect was arrested for investigation of first-degree assault, possessing drugs, theft and resisting arrest.
Police believe the man has mental health issues, including bipolar disorder. They also found suspected methamphetamine in his wallet, court papers said.
Lake Stevens police have encountered the same man in the past, according to court records.
On Monday, he reportedly made some odd statements to police.
“He stated he was an undercover DEA agent and believed his jacket was laced with Kevlar lining,” a police report said. “He stated that he had supreme authority over Lake Stevens and its officers and stated it was his will that (police) immediately release him.”
Instead, he was taken for evaluation at a hospital emergency room and booked into the Snohomish County Jail.
Miner and Thor are thankful Monday’s confrontation resulted in an arrest and not a death.
Miner said he hopes the suspect not only faces criminal charges, but also gets a mental health examination and treatment.
Thor replays the night in his mind.
“When you see that handgun come out, that’s when you can’t really describe that moment because it happens so fast,” Thor said. “At the academy they teach you that there is no such thing as a routine call and this is a perfect example of that.”
He added: “I guess fate was in his favor that night. It worked in his favor and mine.”
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; email@example.com.