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Car chase suspect released without bail, leaving sheriff frustrated

An 18-year-old Puyallup man faces charges of eluding, auto theft and reckless endangerment after an Aug. 16 car chase.

THURSTON COUNTY, Wash. — Thurston County Sheriff Derek Sanders said he is frustrated by a county superior court judge’s decision to release a man facing auto theft and hit-and-run charges.

“It’s a morale hit for us," Sanders said. "It’s a morale hit for the community. It’s a morale hit for the next auto theft victim."

On the evening of Aug. 16, deputies arrested an 18-year-old Puyallup man they said led them on a near-100 mile per hour chase near the Olympia airport.

Detectives originally believed the man was under the influence, but later determined he was driving a car reported stolen earlier in the day, and caused a hit-and-run crash.

Investigators said the man had five teenagers in the car with him at the time of the pursuit.

The man was arrested and released the next day.

He is scheduled to return to court next week to face auto theft, hit and run, eluding police, and five counts of reckless endangerment, one of each of his passengers.

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office posted an edited video of the incident on its Facebook page, as well as an update on the man’s release after a judge ordered his release without bail.

The post said the suspect was released after 21 hours in custody, “On a promise to return to court without a requirement to post any bail.”

"It’s not unreasonable to require some bail," Sanders said. "To require that some person, who doesn’t live here, who has committed a crime that is escaping in nature, be required to post some sort of bail. That’s not excessive to me.”

According to court paperwork, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Allyson Zipp determined: “There exists a substantial danger that the defendant will commit a violent crime." 

In an email, Thurston County Court Administrator Kristin Jensen said, “Judicial ethics rules prohibit a judge from commenting on a pending case.”

Rather than issuing bail, the judge ordered the man must remain in the state, avoid contact with others connected to the case and must obey all state laws. Zipp has not responded to questions about the decision.

The man has no prior convictions, according to prosecutors. At his initial appearance last Thursday, the prosecutor’s office requested the man be held on $10,000 bail.

Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim emailed a statement about the decision.

"Washington court rules, require a presumption that the defendant be released without posting bail unless the court finds that the person is a risk of committing a future violent crime, will not return to court, or will interfere with the administration of justice," Tunheim said in an emailed statement. "In this case, the court declined to make such a finding and released the defendant on conditions but without requiring the posting of money bail."

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