As part of the early drama, a police officer was reportedly rammed by a fleeing vehicle and shots were fired in return.
As things now stand, 24-year-old Kenneth Whiteman was booked into the Pierce County Jail. He was charged with first-degree assault for allegedly striking the Bonney Lake officer.
But the story is more colorful than that simple police blotter item.
Everything unfolded the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 15, when the Bonney Lake officer spotted a vehicle in the parking lot of the Fred Meyer store. Recognizing the 1997 Honda Civic as a vehicle that had been reported stolen the previous evening in Tacoma, the officer approached the vehicle.
Law enforcement has remained rather tight-lipped as to exactly how things unfolded, but it has been acknowledged that the officer was struck as the driver fled in the silver Civic. The officer radioed that shots had been fired.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, as the lead agency in the investigation, has not confirmed who did the shooting.
Due to the nature of the incident, officers from multiple agencies converged on the scene. Their attention shifted 18 minutes later when a 911 call was received from a citizen who reported a man had just parked a car in her driveway and walked away. The caller resides just off 234th Avenue East, a few blocks south of state Route 410 – or not too many minutes from the Fred Meyer store.
Police quickly confirmed the abandoned Honda was the same vehicle involved in the Bonney Lake incident. Police vehicles swarmed the area and a K-9 unit was called in to help with the search, but a suspect was not located.
Interesting developments had occurred, however. A Sheriff’s Officer press release, dated Dec. 22, noted that the K-9 unit had directed police to the 24100 block of Entwhistle Road, not far from where the Honda Civic had been left. It was later reported that a box van had been stolen from the Entwhistle site; it was found Dec. 20, abandoned outside a Tacoma business.
The box van was impounded by detectives who obtained a search warrant in an effort to determine if it was related to the developments of Dec. 15. Police have not officially linked the two incidents and Whiteman was initially charged with just the assault on the Bonney Lake officer.
As part of the Dec. 22 press release, the Sheriff’s Office said it was through “witness interviews” that Whiteman was identified. The department added that authorities spent several days attempting to locate the suspect after he had been identified.
The search came to a head at 12:30 a.m. Monday, Dec. 21, when members of the Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force located Whiteman at a LaQuinta Hotel on East 27th Street near downtown Tacoma. He was sitting in a vehicle in the hotel parking lot and was taken into custody without incident by county deputies and U.S. marshals.