SEATTLE - SPD’s Robbery Unit is a busy place. With just six full-time detectives and one Sergeant, every detective is typically juggling at least a dozen cases. But they’re all put on hold when a big one breaks.
That happens on August 26th, when robbers invade a house in West Seattle tying up the homeowner, El (we are not using her last name for her protection) and her two house guests.
The robbers take jewelry, TV’s, computers and cars, but what worries detectives most is what is taken from El’s safe.
“A lot of weapons were taken and those weapons are deadly, they’re elephant hunting guns,” says Detective Mike Magan.
Magan and Detective Brad Craig question El’s house guests at Seattle Police Headquarters just hours after the robbery. “I need the truth from you, “ Magan says, “The bottom line is the truth.”
Meantime, someone has used El’s stolen ATM card. His picture was caught on the bank’s surveillance camera and El says she recognizes him as the man who put the gun in her face.
“That’s him,” El says when shown the surveillance picture. “You’re sure?” asks Detective Craig.
“I’m positive, proof positive,” El says.
The detectives fire off a police bulletin. By Monday, a tipster has called in a name—George Augustine. It’s been five days since the robbery - they need to move.
By dusk the manhunt takes them to South King County and they've made a key discovery. They say phone records tie Augustine to a second man—Sean Oie, the ex-boyfriend of the girl who was staying with El..
“That’s the nexus to that house is through that girl,” Magan tells the other detectives.
Police are now looking for two armed men.
“And just be really cautious,” Magan says as he briefs detectives en route to follow a lead on Augustine. “He knows he’s a three strikes candidate and he says he’s not going back.”
Robbers are often desperate. Many are drug addicts--all are unpredictable.
Tonight detectives strike out—the apartment they target is empty. "Tomorrow we’ll be back, hit the ground early, see what we can't turn,” Magan says.
They've made progress---they know who they're looking for. But they need some luck and one week after the robbery, they get it.
Magan is in the robbery office at police headquarters when he hears “subject is in custody at 260th and Pac Highway” over his police radio. Augustine has been arrested In Des Moines by detectives who spot his car. They say in that car is a woman with information on Sean Oie.
“She said Oie is held up in a hotel room at 262nd and Pac Highway with the guns,” Magan says.
Magan is still calling for a search warrant, when detectives arrive at the motel and stumble across a man matching Oie's description in the lobby.
“We drew our weapons on him, tried to get him to stop and go to ground,” says Detective Frank Clark who confronted the suspect. “But instead he turned around and ran.”
The suspect flees, gun tucked into his waistband. The motel’s surveillance camera captures him running through the hallway pursued by detectives. But Clark and his partner hold their fire--bullets can go through motel walls.
While SWAT and Police Canine Units search for the suspect who fled, the robbery detectives wait outside the motel for a search warrant to be signed. Once they enter the motel room they expect to find an arsenal of weapons and stolen property.
It’s another disappointment. They find El's passport but the guns are gone.
A short time later, SWAT converges on a second motel, working on a tip that their suspect is holed up there. It’s another false hope.
Still, leads are pouring in.
Oie has called a friend for money. And police plan to show up for the rendezvous.
"When the van pulls in and he (Oie) comes out, I’ll tell everyone to move in and we’ll take him down,” Magan says as he briefs officers gathered in a Starbucks parking lot in Federal Way. “He is a runner, and he does have a gun,” Magan says.
Robbery and SWAT move in. It’s all happening at a busy grocery store. Their suspect seems to vanish again, but he’s just been flushed into the neighborhood where Federal Way Police pick him up.
At SPD Headquarters, detectives say Oie won’t answer any questions. But they say Augustine confesses that it was he and Oie who pulled off the robbery.
They have two suspects in custody. “Everybody’s happy--it was a hell of a day for us!” Detective Magan says.
They’ve made their arrests, now there’s a phone call to make.
“Hey, I got some good news for you,” Detective Magan says when El answers the phone. “I want you to know that we arrested the guys that were responsible for robbing you.”
Not every victim gets a phone call like this one. After 25 years working robberies, for Magan, it's still the payoff.
“You there?” Magan asks El. “Yeah? Sounds like you’re crying.”
On September 7, King County Prosecutors charge George Augustine Jr and Sean Oie with first degree robbery and first degree burglary. The two men appeared before a Seattle judge on Sept. 20th and entered pleas of not guilty to all charges.
Very little of El’s property has been recovered. Police say they found her passport, credit cards and two vehicles. Her jewelry, computer, TV’s, and guns are still missing.