RENTON, Wash. — Milton Mayor Shanna Sherrell still can’t believe what she saw on Tuesday night while coming out of the Safeway on 900 Meridian Avenue East: a woman getting her car stolen, right in the parking lot.
“I approached her with some caution, because I don’t know what’s going on, and she’s pointing to her car that is being stolen,” she recalled. “Prior to that, she informed me that they threw her to the ground, they stomped her head, and they hit her with the gun.”
Little did Mayor Sherrell know that that carjacking was the beginning of a crime spree that would stretch toward Renton and Kent.
According to investigators, the stolen vehicle was spotted at 11 p.m. being used in an armed robbery at a Renton 7-11, and a short time later in Kent at another 7-11 armed robbery.
Milton Police Chief Tony Hernandez says the car the criminals stole was actually the second attempt they made that night. They tried to take someone else’s vehicle, but they were unsuccessful. They then assaulted an 18-year-old woman nearby. They hit her with a gun and took her vehicle to begin their crime spree.
Chief Hernandez says multiple individuals and vehicles were involved in this spree and the stolen vehicle was eventually spotted in Federal Way.
When officers tried to stop the vehicle, four males got out and ran away, escaping custody.
Chief Hernandez says this kind of brazen criminality is only becoming more common.
"We’re starting to become numb to it because it’s happening so frequently,” he said. “This is something that a small city, we haven’t seen anything like this. I’ve been here for nine years, and I haven’t seen anything like it.”
Mayor Sherrell has also seen crime in Milton rise over the past few years.
“We’ve just seen this steady increase and it’s getting more brazen,” she said. “It started with mailboxes being broken into, I recently had a package stolen off my porch, but to see a young lady get attacked in the parking lot, going to the grocery store, it’s gone too far.”
Hernandez says that most the crime seen in Milton doesn’t come from residents, but criminals passing through the city.
He also expressed frustration at state laws that he says keep officers from being effective in catching them.
“We can’t be as proactive as we’d like to be because the pursuit rules have changed,” he stated. “It’s emboldened our criminals so that they know that if an officer gets behind them, the only thing they have to do is take off and we can’t chase them.”
Sherrell says she hopes that something will be done soon, because she feels how to rising crime has transformed her city.
“I no longer keep things in the driveway, I have six cameras on my home. I carry pepper spray, I’m thinking about learning how to shoot a gun. It’s changing us,” Sherrell said.
So far, Milton Police haven’t been able to identify any suspects, but encouraging anyone with any information to contact the Milton Police Department as soon as possible.