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Shape-Shifting Suspect Speeds Off In Squad Car

Tue., Sept. 17, 1996

She’s lucky it wasn’t a stick shift.

In a trick that would have made Houdini blush, a 38-year-old shoplifting suspect somehow managed to squeeze through the small opening separating the front and back seats of a police squad car and sped away in the cruiser Friday - possibly while wearing handcuffs, police said.

Officers were just feet away.

“This is very, very rare,” said Trudy Dana, Lynnwood police spokeswoman.

According to Dana, here’s how events unfolded:

Police officer Warren Beers put the 5-foot-3, 170-pound woman in the back seat of his 1996 Ford Crown Victoria about 4 p.m. after workers at Fred Meyer said they had caught her stealing two packs of cigarettes.

Before taking her away, Beers stopped to help another officer who was searching a nearby car. Beers left his car running - and the sliding Plexiglas partition open between the front and back seats.

Moments later, Beers and the other officer saw the car leaving “at a high rate of speed.”

The fully marked cruiser was found an hour later - unoccupied and undamaged - at a Lynnwood apartment complex a couple of miles away. The handcuffs were lying in the back seat. As of Monday morning, the woman still was missing.

Police said that before the alleged shoplifting, the woman had been wanted for theft and for driving with a suspended license. Police also believe she came to the store in a stolen car.

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