Suspect in Everett chase a repeat offender

  • Fri Sep 3rd, 2010 1:24pm
  • News

By Eric Stevick and Diana Hefley Herald Writers

EVERETT — Doug Owens watched a young man in a white T-shirt and tan shorts race down his driveway Wednesday evening, a police dog handler hot on the man’s trail.

It wasn’t the first time Owens’ back yard had been the stage for drama.

Thirty years ago, officers shot a wayward bear on his wooded lot.

This time, they captured an elusive fugitive accused of shooting at a Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy during a wild car chase that tied up I-5 traffic for hours and left one woman in the hospital.

Owens pointed the dog handler toward his back yard in the Beverly Park neighborhood. Moments later, other officers converged and the fugitive was sprawled on his belly and in handcuffs near a peach tree.

“He came up with one shoe missing,” Owens said. “The police and sheriff’s officers had him and got him out real quick.”

“I don’t need any more of this,” he added.

Deputies escorted Theodore Ohms, 23, off Owens’ property in the 7100 block of Olympic Drive. The arrest ended a massive manhunt that included dozens of officers from several police agencies. Everett alone had 20 officers involved in the search.

On Thursday, the day after the manhunt, Ohms refused to leave his cell to attend a bail hearing in Everett District Court. The Lynnwood man was booked into the Snohomish County Jail for investigation of first-degree assault, unlawful possession of a firearm and attempting to elude police officers, as well as a parole violation.

The state Department of Corrections had issued a warrant for Ohms’ arrest just days before the chase. He’d failed to report to his community corrections officer on July 20. Corrections officers visited his home three times in August to track him down. On the third visit, a woman there told authorities Ohms was no longer living there, corrections spokesman Chad Lewis said. They obtained an arrest warrant on Aug. 27.

Ohms was being held without bail Thursday. If he refuses to appear at a hearing today, the court indicated it will issue an order allowing guards to haul him in front of a judge against his will.

Ohms also is under investigation for vehicular assault, Snohomish County sheriff’s spokeswoman Rebecca Hover said. The woman who was injured after Ohms allegedly slammed into her van, Tamara Fietkau, 49, was being treated for injuries at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. She was listed in satisfactory condition Thursday.

Ohms is a convicted felon. In April he was sentenced to two months in jail after leading Lynnwood police on a high-speed chase through south Snohomish County. He also was convicted in 2009 for possession of methamphetamine.

On Wednesday afternoon, police allege, he bought an ounce of methamphetamine. Later, on the 11400 block of Beverly Park Road, a sheriff’s deputy tried to pull over the Volkswagen Jetta that Ohms was driving because it had canceled license plates.

Mandy Bigelow, who was also in the car, told police that when Ohms saw the deputy trying to pull him over, he made a comment similar to “I can’t. I can’t,” and punched down on the accelerator, according to police reports filed Thursday.

The chase wound through neighborhoods in south Everett, reaching speeds of 50 to 60 mph on residential streets where the speed limit is 25 mph.

Deputies said the Jetta weaved in and out of traffic, running vehicles off the two-lane road. At one point, a deputy reported that the Jetta accelerated toward his patrol car and he had to swerve to avoid being hit.

A sheriff’s sergeant ordered that the pursuit be stopped because of safety concerns and heavy traffic. It resumed when another deputy spotted the Jetta driving east along Highway 526, where traffic at the time was light.

A pursuing deputy on Highway 526 said he could see the Jetta driver point a handgun out the car’s sunroof. There was a muzzle flash. The deputy said the suspect fired multiple rounds at him, with one round striking the front of his patrol car.

Ohms allegedly told Bigelow that he fired at the pursuing police car hoping to stop the chase. He later allegedly admitted to detectives that he shot at the patrol car but denied intending to hurt the deputy.

Bigelow managed to grab the handgun and threw it out the window. She later led police to the section of Highway 526 where a handgun was recovered.

Bigelow told KIRO-TV that she was afraid for her life and was powerless to stop the man who had been her boyfriend of about a month.

“I was just screaming and telling him, ‘Please stop, please stop,’ ” she said. “Please, Theo, please stop.”

Ohms thought he could get away, she said.

“I was just very terrified,” she said. “All I could think of was that I was gonna die.”

Bigelow stayed at the scene of the crash and cooperated with the investigation.

After Ohms crashed into Fietkau’s van on northbound I-5, he abandoned the Jetta, court documents said.

The manhunt migrated from I-5 around 41st Street to a neighborhood near Madison Street between Broadway and Evergreen Way. The residential area has pockets of woods, and police concentrated on an area around Olympic Drive near the New Life Center church.

Witnesses described an efficient dragnet of law officers armed with assault rifles and police dogs that swarmed their neighborhood.

The manhunt put a crimp in a barbecue for family and neighbors at Megan Steinert’s home on Olympic Drive.

“Within two seconds there was cop cars lined as far as you could see,” Steinert said.

Police told residents to get inside, she said.

“I had six kids locked in the basement,” Steinert said.

Alan Pierce, who was visiting Steinert from Portland, Ore., had to abandon his pingpong paddle in mid-game. He was impressed by the magnitude and speed of the search.

Later, he watched police bring the suspect past the house.

“He didn’t look threatening at that point,” he said. “It sets a good example not to shoot at cops.”

Dan Leslie let his dogs outside in his fenced yard, which is about a block from where the arrest occurred. He figured they would let him know if an intruder tried to escape through his property.

“They wouldn’t do anything but lick someone to death, but they would give us warning,” he said.

Reporter Rikki King contributed to this story.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com