Law enforcement agencies often cooperate with one another to track and arrest individuals who are accused of a crime in more than one state. The recent arrest of a man from Washington state by Pinole police provides a dramatic example of law enforcement crossing state lines.
The incident began at about 10:40 on Wednesday morning to investigate a “possibly stolen vehicle.” Police found a man sleeping in a car. After verifying that the car had been stolen in Washington state, officers arrested the man and searched the car in which he was sleeping. According to the complaint, the search revealed an AR-15 automatic rifle in the front passenger’s seat. The rifle was alleged to have handwritten numbers and letters written all over it. The rifle was leaning against the passenger seat with the muzzle on the floor of the vehicle. The rifle allegedly had a round in the firing chamber. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the gun was immediately available to the driver’s right hand.
Further investigation revealed that the rifle was equipped with a loaded, high-capacity 30-round magazine. The firing switch was set to “fire.” Police allege that a second 30-round magazine was taped to the magazine that was in the rifle. This magazine was taped in a position that allowed the shooter to empty the first magazine, discard it and quickly load the second magazine. A further search of the vehicle revealed a third high-capacity magazine in the trunk of the vehicle.
Police interviewed the suspect after the arrest. The incident report states that the man disclosed that he was intending to travel to San Francisco to “handle” a stockbroker who worked in the Bay Area. The suspect did not reveal the name of his intended victim. As he was being taken to the county jail, the suspect expressed a wish that the police had started the encounter by making a routine traffic stop. In the suspect’s words, such an action would have made the morning “a little more interesting” because the suspect said that he would have “shot it out with the officer.” The suspect was ultimately jailed and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The Pinole police did not state whether they intended to charge the man with California crimes. Also unknown is whether the man faces other criminal charges in Washington or elsewhere.
This incident has several odd circumstances. First, the suspect apparently anticipated engaging in a gunfight with police because he had the AR-15 loaded and ready to employ. Yet he appeared to be willing to talk to police in a casual and informal manner. He also failed to take the most basic step to protect himself – call an attorney for advice. The news reports of this incident say that the FBI is continuing to investigate the matter and other charges may be forthcoming. The suspect may have inadvertently incriminated himself during his conversation with police on the way to the jail.
A knowledgeable defense attorney could have prevented the man from making any self-incriminating statement by invoking the Fifth and 14th Amendments privileges against self-incrimination. A capable attorney can also provide a helpful evaluation of the prosecution’s evidence and suggest helpful defense strategies. The circumstances of this case also suggest that a plea agreement may be the best outcome for the suspect.