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TACOMA — An armed carjacking ended in flames on I-5 in Tacoma on Monday, after a lengthy chase that spanned three South Sound cities.
The carjacking happened around 11:30 a.m. and ended an hour and a half later.
According to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, the car was stolen by a suspect armed with a gun at Orangegate Park in Tacoma. An Air Tag left inside the car by the owner helped deputies track it to a Federal Way shopping complex. After deputies caught up with the carjacker, the suspect ran over spike strips and lost a rear tire as he drove away.
Deputies chased the suspect from there to Fife, and then onto southbound I-5.
Deputies told KIRO 7 they chased the stolen car because a gun was involved. They were worried if he carjacked one person with a gun, he might use it again.
A deputy performing a PIT maneuver caused the carjacker’s vehicle to crash and catch fire.
It was a sight and sound so startling, Barbara Dobbins left her office at Bruce Titus Automotive to go live on social media. Three cars were on fire across the grass on I-5, two of them Pierce County sheriff patrol cars.
“So, we came out and this guy comes running up and ‘you got fire extinguishers, you got fire extinguishers’,” Dobbins said.
Dobbins said she and her coworkers jumped into action, trying to help put out the fire because Tacoma Fire hadn’t yet arrived. They could hear the popping of gunfire as the patrol cars were set alight. And that wasn’t all.
“We could hear screaming,” Dobbins said. “There was a woman screaming. And we didn’t know why.”
Those screams were coming from the stolen car. The suspect had run away and left the female passenger behind as the car started to burn, but was “quickly apprehended.”
“He had a passenger,” said Sgt. Darren Moss Jr. “So, when they saw the vehicles caught on fire, a Tacoma Police officer was here as well as one of our deputies was able to pull her from the vehicle as it was going up in flames.”
The woman was rescued before the fire fully overtook the car. The fire then spread to nearby dry grass and two nearby patrol cars.
Sgt. Moss said the suspect suffered some injuries in the crash. His female passenger suffered smoke inhalation.
They were taken to a local hospital. He will be booked into the Pierce County jail once he is released. His passenger could be in trouble, too.
A gun was also found in the burned-out grass next to the stolen car.
On Tuesday, the suspected carjacker was charged with first degree robbery, attempting to elude police, unlawful possession of a firearm, and identity theft. His bail was set at $250,000. The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department also says that he “has prior convictions for similar offenses.”
Jackie R, the woman whose car was taken has set up a GoFundMe to help pay for a new car.
“My goal is to offset the losses from this event that I will never forget,” said Jackie.
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