April 16, 2009

STA security honored for apprehending robbery suspects

By The Spokesman-Review
Christopher Anderson photo

Spokane Transit Association security guards Chris Hamilton, left and Chris Stein stand at the Plaza on Thursday, April 16, 2009. The men disarmed an armed robbery suspect in February.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

Two security officers at the Spokane Transit Authority Plaza in downtown Spokane chased down one of two armed-robbery suspects at the Plaza in February, tackling the man to the ground and finding a loaded .22-caliber revolver in his waistband.

STA security officer Chris Stein and Securitas security officer Chris Hamilton were honored on Thursday evening by the STA board for teaming up with Spokane police in taking the two armed suspects off the streets.

The chase occurred after the victim of an armed robbery the previous day – a regular bus rider – spotted the robbery suspects at the Plaza at 7:20 p.m. on Feb. 24. The Plaza was busy with passengers at the time, the two officers said.

The two unarmed security officers and two regular police officers approached the suspects after the robbery victim pointed them out.

The suspects were outside the Plaza and when the officers approached, one of them ran east and then north while the other headed west. Police pursued one while the security officers went after the other.

Stein described what happened in an interview Thursday. “We got about six, eight feet behind him. He starts reaching toward his waistband and slowing his pace.”

Stein said he grabbed the suspect and pulled him to the ground. When Stein patted him down, he found the loaded weapon.

Hamilton said, “I kind of looked at him and you could tell by the look on both of our faces we were kind of shocked.”

The arrest, Hamilton said, makes him feel good because there’s “one less person running around there with a gun.”

The suspect was identified as Drakarie D. Mills, 17, of Tacoma, who is being held on $100,000 bond on first-degree armed robbery and weapons charges in adult court.

The other suspect, who was allegedly armed with a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun, was arrested by police several blocks to the east.

He was identified as Timothy T.E. White, 17, of Spokane Valley. He was being held on $50,000 bond for first-degree robbery and weapons charges, also in adult court.

Both guns were stolen – one from Pierce County in 2005 and the other in a Spokane Valley burglary less than two weeks before the downtown robbery. One of the suspects told officers that they were affiliated with a gang. Both were in Spokane County Jail on Thursday.

The victim in the Feb. 23 robbery told police that he had gun stuck in his abdomen by one of the two robbers who got away with $65 cash in an incident that occurred in an alley next to the Holley Mason Building, 157 S. Howard St., while he was outside about 3 p.m. for a smoke break during his work shift.

STA Security Coordinator Clifford Schlienger said that Hamilton and Stein “were smart about” the way they handled the incident by waiting until the suspect brought his arms free from his waistband before closing in.

Police officers Shaney Redmon and Wayne Downing were at the scene and pursued the other suspect.

They lauded the security officers at the Plaza in a letter to STA. “They never hesitate in helping us regardless of the risk involved,” their letter said.

Officials said the arrest underlines the transit agency’s commitment to keeping the STA Plaza safe for bus riders. Stein and Hamilton are among 16 Securitas security officers and eight STA security officers who keep an eye on the crowds at the Plaza.

Redmon and Downing are assigned to the Plaza as part of a three-year-old funding partnership in which STA pays for one police officer and the city pays for the second.

Mike Prager can be reached at (509) 459-5454 or by e-mail at mikep@spokesman.com

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