Man Carjacked at Gunpoint at Golden Gardens Park

A man was robbed at gunpoint and had his car stolen late Monday night at Golden Gardens Park in Ballard.

According to the victim, he was digging in his pockets for his car keys in Golden Gardens’ parking lot around 11:20 p.m. when four men walked up behind him. One of the men then asked to use the victim’s cell phone. When the victim refused, one of the suspects struck him on the head and pulled out a gun, which he pointed at the victim before demanding his wallet, keys, and cell phone.

The suspects then fled in the scene in the victim’s 2008 Honda Accord. The victim then flagged down a passerby, who called police.

Officer searched the area, but weren’t able to find the suspects. Robbery detectives are investigating the incident.

Two Teens Arrested for Marijuana Burglary

Police arrested two teen-agers early Monday after they robbed a marijuana dispensary in the Columbia City neighborhood, stuffing a backpack with marijuana joints and other products.

When officers responded to reports of a burglary around 4:30 a.m., near 42nd Avenue and South Brandon Street, they saw a broken window at the business and a suspect peering through it. Officers called for the burglars to come out and two teen-aged boys, ages 15 and 16, emerged.

The suspects had more than 50 marijuana joints, containers of marijuana, oil, and other products in their packs. They were arrested on investigation of burglary. One teen was released to his mother, the other was taken to a crisis residential center.

Prints of Darkness: How tenacity and Super Glue help police solve crimes

Katie Hosteny, latent print examiner at SPD.
– Photos by Chris Mobley, SPD Photo Lab

Katie Hosteny isn’t fazed by blood spatters, digging through rotting garbage or crawling through putrid cars that once held corpses, but the clingy black powder she uses on everything sticks with her.

“You get really, really dirty with fingerprint powder,” said Hosteny, who dusts guns, bottles and any other evidence she can find with the carbon black-based substance. “If you blow your nose two days later, it will be black.”

It’s a small price, she says, to do a job that helps catch murderers, rapists and other criminals by finding fingerprints invisible to the naked eye.

Hosteny is one of 11 latent print examiners at the Seattle Police Department. The unit often provides detectives the critical link needed to catch suspects in high profile crimes.

That was true in the murder of a 46-year-old West Seattle woman who died from a blow to the head last December. Detectives suspected her ex-boyfriend, but he denied involvement and there was initially no evidence tying him to the crime.

The latent print unit was able to lift a print from a partially wrapped Christmas gift that put the former boyfriend at the scene. He confessed to the crime in March after being confronted with the evidence.

In another case, an examiner pulled a print from the window of a car involved in the murders of two men in Leschi in June. The print was matched to Ali Muhammad Brown, a homeless man also wanted on warrants for failure to register as a sex offender.

The print shifted the focus of the murder investigation to Brown and provided other clues that tied him not only to the killings here, but other crimes as well. Brown was arrested last month in New Jersey.

The latent print unit connects the dots for detectives in ways no one else can, said Lt. Michael Kebba, with the SPD homicide unit.

“Being able to put someone physically at the scene of a crime, by lifting their fingerprint, can be instrumental in solving a case,” Kebba said. “Particularly when a subject previously denied ever being present.”

Hidden prints

This chamber fogs evidence with Super Glue, which helps expose latent prints.

Most of Hosteny’s latent print work is done behind locked doors in a lab packed with high-tech equipment, including special lamps that emit light at different wave lengths and chambers that fog evidence with Super Glue.

The lab takes in thousands of pieces of evidence each year from detectives who hope the examiners can expose hidden prints that will help solve cases.

Hosteny, who is 32, dons a blue lab coat, purple gloves and ties her hair back in a ponytail when handling evidence. She has a drawer full of brushes made from feathers, hair, fiberglass and even a magnetic wand that’s used with metallic fingerprint powder. The main powder they use is made from a combination of carbon black and pumice. Hosteny dusts items with the clingy, black particles and then lifts exposed prints with tape.

She’s found prints on just about everything criminals might touch: steering wheels, windows, cigarettes, guns, eyeglasses, beer bottles, screwdrivers, poorly written notes from bank robbers, miles of tape – and even a Halloween pumpkin.

She recently dusted several different pieces of evidence including a crumpled Red Bull can from a burglary, a handgun from a robbery and a key chain from a car theft, pausing occasionally to fog evidence with her breath to “hydrate” the prints. “Latent prints are 99 percent water, so they are really fragile,” Hosteny said.

In addition to using fingerprint powder, the lab also has a refrigerator-sized machine with several chambers where examiners hang different items and fog them with Super Glue. Researchers in Japan discovered years ago that glue helps expose latent fingerprints.

After it’s dried, the evidence gets squirted with a yellow dye and then rinsed and dried again. Ultimately it gets taken into the most interesting part of the lab, a lighting room that features specialized equipment that emits light at various wavelengths.

The lighting room emits different wavelengths of light, which allows prints that have been coated with dye to stand out.

Hosteny, wearing yellow-tinted goggles, held the Red Bull can under the light and a clear print highlighted by the Super Glue jumped out. A digital picture was taken of the print and then scanned into a computer and run for a match against a database of prints.

Finding a clear fingerprint is rare, and almost like Christmas morning, she said. “It’s really exciting. You want to get it over to the photo lab as soon as possible so you can search the fingerprint database and get an identification.”

No squeamishness allowed

The coolest part of being a fingerprint examiner, Hosteny says, is going out to crime scenes, hauling around a smudged fingerprint kit that’s crammed with gear including gloves, brushes, powder, tape and a really big magnifying glass.

“You’re at some unknown location. You have to assess the scene and document everything and then you are looking around and saying ‘Ok, where would they have touched,” she said.

The job requires curiosity, a knack for solving puzzles — and a lack of squeamishness. Before joining the police department, Hosteny had a job where she removed eyeballs from cadavers to be used for cornea and sclera transplants.

She recalls being called out to look for latent prints at a three-story town home where a woman was assaulted. Hosteny and her co-workers used a special chemical spray called amido black, which turns dark purple when it comes into contact with blood proteins, because “there was blood everywhere,” she said.

“As you keep touching things, the blood gets thinner and thinner. So you can’t really see the blood anymore but you’re still leaving behind prints,” she said, noting the chemical they used at the scene was able to expose them.

Other notable memories – digging through moist, rotting garbage for a bottle to process for prints, and the “pretty potent” smell associated with cars that held corpses.

Hosteny said she’s able to detach herself from the sometimes gruesome crime scenes.

“If it affected me and I had an emotional reaction, it wouldn’t be the right job for me,” she said. “It’s a job. You get in there and assess what’s going on.”

Hosteny dusts a key chain from a recent car theft.

Teen Arrested After Crawling in Bed with Sleeping Woman

Seattle police on Wednesday arrested a teenager for breaking into a North Beacon Hill home last month and crawling into a woman’s bed as she slept.

The victim, on July 29th, reported to police that she was asleep, naked, in bed when she woke up and realized someone was lying next to her. When the woman told the suspect to get out, he told her “I need to sleep, please let me sleep here.”

At her insistence he got out bed and left the room. The victim got dressed and went downstairs to see if he was gone and found the teenager standing by the door. He told her “I need to stay here, I’m leaving town soon.” When the victim said no, he replied “Oh, OK,” and left.

The victim noticed the window to her room was open and the screen had been cut. A knife was on the dresser next to her window.

Detectives arrested the 17-year-old at his home and booked him into the Youth Service Center for investigation of burglary. The suspect has a history of this type of behavior.

Woman Robbed at Gunpoint at Prentis Frazier Park

Police are looking for two men who robbed a woman at gunpoint at Prentis Frazier Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood Wednesday night.

The woman was sitting on a park bench around 10:20 p.m. when two strangers approached her. According to the victim, one of the men pointed a silver revolver at her face and said, “give me your stuff.” When she screamed, the man with the gun said, “don’t scream, we’re gonna shoot you.” The victim handed over her backpack and phone.

The victim described the suspects as two black males in their 30s. One man was about 5-foot-9, the other suspect was approximately 6-feet tall. She saw them run south on 24th Avenue East and get in a dark, 4-door sedan. Officers searched the area but did not find the suspects.