After sprinting and swimming through South Lake Union early this morning, a suspected auto thief’s Olympic aspirations were dashed by officers, who arrested the man before he could begin the bicycling portion of his impromptu triathlon.
A security guard working in the 1200 block of Valley St. called police around 2 AM Monday after he saw a suspicious man in a parking lot, removing parts from a Ford pickup truck and placing them in a Toyota SUV.
When officers stepped out of their patrol car in the parking lot, they saw the truck and the SUV—both of which were reported stolen—and smelled gasoline fumes. Police then spotted a large gas can on the ground, where they also found a 31-year-old man lying underneath the pickup. After noticing the officers, the startled suspect stood up and sprinted away.
Police followed him into another parking lot, where they cornered him at a dead end. But the suspect, not yet ready to be taken into custody, hurtled down to another level of the lot, about ten feet below, and hopped a fence.
As officers gave chase, the suspect dashed into a loading dock behind a building and tried to fool police by hiding under some foliage.
Officers quickly spotted the suspect and ordered him to surrender, but the man ran past officers—after engaging in a brief struggle—and fled to the parking lot of a marina near Fairview Avenue and Aloha Street.
Police kept after the man as they tried to convince him to surrender, but when police caught up to the suspect at the marina, he once again jumped down to a lower level of the parking lot, about 20 feet below.
Officers continued their pursuit as the now-limping suspect made his way toward the water.
As more officers arrived to help contain the suspect, police spotted the man swimming out in Lake Union.
Officers followed the suspect from one dock to another as he tried to swim out of reach of the long arm of the law.
Finally, the suspect swam under a yacht and tried to hide in an air pocket near the boat’s propeller.
Police kept a close watch on the suspect, who began to struggle in the water and showed signs of hypothermia.
When officers threw the man a floatation vest and urged him to come to shore, the suspect responded that he would “rather drown than go to jail.”
Police continued to talk the man out of the water, reminding him that it was “not worth drowning over a property crime” and that his “life was worth more than a can of stolen gasoline.” Eventually the suspect relented and climbed out of the water and onto a boat, where police took him into custody.
Officers transported the soaked and exhausted suspect to Harborview Medical Center for treatment before booking him into the King County Jail for investigation of auto theft.