“Good Police Work” Leads To Arrest Of Burien’s ‘Smash & Grab’ Suspect
“Just good old-fashioned police work.”
That’s how Burien Police Sgt. Henry McLauchlan described the investigation that led to the recent arrest of a man suspected of a string of smash-and-grab burglaries in Burien and West Seattle.
It was “great work between Seattle and King County, especially Burien detectives who took [the burglaries] as a personal affront and went out to get a bad guy,” McLauchlan said.
After investigators identified a couple of possible suspects, who turned out to have no connection to this case, “out of nowhere they got a lead. They developed information on this guy and were off and running.
“Everyone available went back and ‘knocked on doors’ trying to dig up ideas,” he continued. “The amount of time he was in these locations and gone was very, very minimal. There was no pattern, no way to say where it was going to happen next.”
Over 30 small businesses in Burien and West Seattle were hit by the “smash-and-grab” burglaries this summer.
Detective Ignacio Yanez of the Burien Police Department/King County Sheriff’s Office noted the method of operation was always the same – throwing a rock through a glass door or window to gain entry, grabbing a cash drawer or register and once a laptop computer, and getting away.
Each crime was committed in about a minute, making it difficult for both the police and citizens to witness a burglary in progress or see a suspicious person fleeing the scene.
Charged with four counts of second-degree burglary in connection with this local crime spree is Stephen Hayes Kirk, 50, who was arrested early the morning of Aug. 11 shortly after another “smash-and-grab” incident in Burien.
He was arraigned in King County Superior Court the following day and bail was set at $150,000. Kirk, who has a Burien address, remains in jail.
Both Burien and Seattle police continue to investigate the other burglaries to determine if there are additional charges they can file against him.
“I might have been the lead detective, but everyone brought a piece of the puzzle to the table,” Yanez said. “It truly was a team effort that helped get this thing done.”
Detectives from the sheriff’s office Street Crimes and Crime Investigation units and patrol officers were brought in to work the case, yet developing firm leads remained elusive. Burien police/KCSO stayed in contact with Seattle police, who were investigating the “smash-and-grab” burglaries in West Seattle.
“I can’t tell you how many different officers kept coming up with different things at different times to say, ‘I got a piece of the puzzle,’” Yanez continued. “Seattle officers, too.”
But the burglar “was super quick and didn’t spend much time inside these businesses. If an officer had not brought another piece of the puzzle in, we wouldn’t have been able to connect the dots.
“We were able to find [the suspect] just because a Burien patrol officer said ‘hey, I remember where I saw this vehicle [with a unique logo] parked just a couple of days ago,’ and everything fell into place.”
At that point, Yanez said, “We found out about the vehicle, who owned it, who he hangs out with, his relatives, and then we started looking at all those places to find it.” McLauchlan called locating the vehicle “quite a concentrated effort” by both Burien and Seattle police.
With that, Yanez added, “We started to follow [the suspect] as well.” Using several surveillance techniques, investigators kept track of him “for a couple of days.” Then he allegedly “pulled off another burglary and we arrested him” a short time later.
According to police reports filed with the court to establish probable cause to file charges, that surveillance helped investigators allegedly place Kirk’s vehicle in the vicinity of the next three “smash-and-grab” burglaries.
Then just before 2 a.m. Aug. 11, a 9-1-1 call was received from a witness who heard an alarm coming from Huff Motorsports at 15821 1st Ave. S. in Burien and saw a man carrying a cash register running from the business.
A detective in the area saw a person matching his description allegedly get into the suspect vehicle and drive away. The vehicle was followed to a location in North Burien, where Kirk was taken into custody without incident and read his Miranda rights.
Calling the “smash-and-grab” burglaries “crimes of opportunity,” McLauchlan said “one of the things we can walk away with is that we need to remind business owners that once their closed signs go up, they need to make it very unattractive for this kind of burglary and in fact for all burglaries.
“Usually a burglar already will have walked by a business a couple of times to see what’s available.” Businesses need to remove all money from the register and leave the cash drawer open after hours so they can see there is nothing convenient to steal.
“It’s not uncommon once we get a bad guy that he’s a serial bad guy,” McLauchlan continued. “One guy can be a crime wave. They cause us the most problems and we make it a priority because they cause so much stress to our community.”
During a series of crimes like the “smash-and-grab” burglaries, “it takes time to connect the dots. If no one else is around it takes time to put that information together” – and that takes a lot longer than it does on television.
To read more of our previous coverage of this crime spree, click here.