From our sister site The Waterland Blog:

Des Moines Police Chief Ken Thomas is “extremely disappointed” about a recent carjacking incident, where an adult male and three juveniles were released from custody prior to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office or judges receiving the entire case.

Police say that on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022 at about 11:28 p.m. a sergeant with the Des Moines Police Department was flagged down by two male citizens in the area of S. 216th Street and Pacific Highway S. (map below) regarding a carjacking.

The victims were visibly upset and appeared frightened. Both stated they had just been approached by four to five male subjects armed with handguns and demanded they lay down in the middle of the street. One victim indicated a suspect pointed a handgun at his head, charged a bullet into the chamber, and then ordered him to hand over his personal possessions. The victim complied as he was in fear for his life. The suspects then stole the other victim’s vehicle after pointing guns at him.

Des Moines Police Officers immediately broadcast the situation and descriptions to area law enforcement. Within about 20 minutes, officers from Federal Way Police Department located the stolen vehicle in the area of 32000 Pacific Highway S. Officers observed five suspects flee the vehicle on foot and gave chase. One adult male and three juvenile males were captured. Officers recovered a handgun that matched the description provided by the victims.

The adult male was booked into the King County Jail on 72-hour investigative hold for Robbery 1st Degree. The three juveniles were booked into King County Juvenile Detention Center on 72-hour investigative holds for Robbery 1st Degree.

On Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, Des Moines Police learned the four suspects were released from custody within the 72-hour hold, prior to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office or judges receiving the entire case. Two 17-year-olds were released on electronic home monitoring. One 16-year-old was released to parents and an 18-year-old was released on personal recognizance.

Chief Ken Thomas of the Des Moines Police Department said that he is:

“Extremely disappointed with this decision to release dangerous, armed, violent criminals back into the community with seemingly no consequence. During a time when violent gun crime is on the rise in King County, this lack of serious consideration to keep these most dangerous criminals in custody is a travesty. It is the top priority of law enforcement to help keep our community safe. These actions taken by prosecutors and judges undermine that mission. The two victims in this case were not taken seriously by our criminal justice system.”

We reached out to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) for response, and they told us:

“King County prosecutors share the police chief’s concerns about the release of armed carjacking suspects, which is why we argued for suspects in this case to be held in detention. Unfortunately, multiple suspects were released over prosecutors’ objection.”

Some additional notes from KCPAO:

    • Prosecutors appreciate the work of Des Moines Police to make these arrests and get us the case information we presented to judges in our arguments for detention.
    • King County prosecutors argued that the adult suspect should be held on $100,000 bail because of the danger to the community, but he was released by a judge over prosecutors’ objection.
    • Two of the other suspects were released over the objection of King County prosecutors, who argued that they should be held in juvenile detention.
    • The juvenile probation counselor recommended that the fourth suspect, a 16-year-old, be released to his family. King County prosecutors argued for electronic home detention.
    • The documents submitted by police for the court appearances of all four suspects checked “no” in the “law enforcement object to release” section. Defense was aware of this, and it was considered by judges as a counterpoint against prosecutors’ argument to hold suspects in secure detention.
    • None of these cases were sent by prosecutors to diversion programs.

First suspect: Laquarious M. Webb
At Mr. Webb’s first appearance on Oct. 31, 2022, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office argued that he should be held on $100,000 bail because he’s a danger to the community. We also sought probable cause for two counts of Robbery in the First Degree. If a judge agreed, the suspect would be held for 72 hours while police investigators worked on the documents required by law for a felony charging decision. A judge released Mr. Webb from custody over the objection of King County prosecutors.

The first appearance document written by police and presented in court by the KCPAO is attached. Police did not object to his release in the first appearance document. That was considered by the judge as a counterpoint against prosecutors’ argument to hold the suspect in secure detention.

The documents required for a charging decision were received Nov. 1. That’s routine – additional documents in all types of cases are referred after a first appearance hearing (which is part of why we argue for detention). Even though Mr. Webb was released by a judge over prosecutors’ objection, we can still file charges with the additional documents sent by police on Tuesday.

No other cases involving the suspect have been referred to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. This was not sent to diversion.

Second suspect: a 17-year-old male
The second suspect was a 17-year-old whose first appearance hearing was under King County cause number 22-0-01476-1. Police did not object to his release in the first appearance document. The teen’s family was present, and the juvenile probational counselor wanted the teen released to his parents. King County prosecutors argued for the teen to be held in detention, and he was released on electronic home monitoring over prosecutors’ objections. Prosecutors received additional documents from police Tuesday after the first appearance and expect a charging decision Wednesday.

This was not sent to diversion. No other cases involving the suspect have been referred to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Third suspect: another 17-year-old male
The third suspect is another 17-year-old whose first appearance hearing was under King County cause number 22-0-01477-9. Police did not object to his release on the first appearance document. King County prosecutors argued that the 17-year-old be held in detention. He was released over prosecutors’ objection to electronic home monitoring, which is what a juvenile probation counselor requested. The KCPAO’s argument to hold the suspect in detention is outlined in cause number 22-0-01477-9. We anticipate receiving this case from police for a charging decision.

This was not sent to diversion. No other cases involving the suspect have been referred to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Fourth suspect: 16-year-old male
The fourth suspect is a 16-year-old whose first appearance hearing was under King County cause number 22-0-01478-7. Police did not object to his release on the first appearance document. The juvenile probation counselor on the case wanted the teen released to his family. Prosecutors argued for electronic home monitoring, which the judge ordered. Prosecutors received additional documents from police Tuesday after the first appearance and expect a charging decision Wednesday.

This was not sent to diversion. No other cases involving the suspect have been referred to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

EDITOR’S NOTE: King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office’s objection to the release of suspects was not noted in the press release sent out by Des Moines Police Wednesday morning, Nov. 2, 2022.

UPDATE 5:43 p.m. on NOV. 2, 2022: The Waterland Blog has posted a followup story (with video) about Chief Thomas press conference held on Wednesday afternoon – read it here.