When Liz Marlan heard gunshots outside her house in the middle of the night last summer, her first instinct was to grab her newborn son and drop to the floor.
“They shot directly at my house, right at it,” the new mother said. She said she looked out the window and could see someone in a car shooting a gun at a person running by on the sidewalk.
After the shooting stopped, her next instinct was to start processing who was responsible. In her mind, there was one obvious choice: the house across the street.
“This is the single worst one on the entire block,” she said Thursday, staring at the excavator digging large piles of trash out of the now-empty home’s yard. “There’s nothing more heartbreaking than laying on the floor of your son’s nursery, hiding. Thank God they’re gone.”
On Thursday, Neighborhood Code Enforcement officials and Spokane Police Department neighborhood resource officers oversaw a private-contractor removal of large amounts of debris from the yard of the boarded-up home.
For years, the home was sheltering well-known repeat offenders and drug users, and for about a year, law enforcement officials were working with the homeowner on getting his yard cleaned up and the people out of his home.
Located at 2403 W. Mallon Ave., the home was notorious in the area for being a crime haven. In fact, the neighbors call it “the nightmare on Elm Street.”
“The whole damn world could see what these guys were doing and nobody could stop them,” Marlan said.
In February, Traci Ponto, a neighborhood resource officer in the West Central and Emerson-Garfield neighborhoods, became aware of the house when she arrested a man living in the backyard on a robbery warrant. She said the entire yard was filled with furniture and other items, including three campers.
She issued a chronic nuisance order, and met with the homeowner, David Sugai. They came to an agreement, and “things got quiet there for several months.”
“And then in July, neighbors got ahold of me and let me know that things had picked up and increasingly got busier,” she said. “And then we ended up with a drive-by in the end of July.”
Around that time, the City Council unanimously passed an amendment to the city’s chronic nuisance laws, which expanded the definitions of “nuisance activity” and included a longer list of areas that would make a property a “chronic nuisance.”
“I went out with a gang unit to do follow-up on the drive-by shooting and asked him why things had escalated and picked up,” Ponto said. “His words to me were, ‘I thought you got transferred.’ ”
Ponto said Sugai continued to not honor the agreement. “He didn’t quite get the message,” she said.
Law enforcement gave Sugai until Dec. 9 to move out and Dec. 21 to gather his belongings. Ponto said Sugai was already interested in selling the house, so once he was out and his stuff was gone, the house would be close to a new buyer.
Marlan said that since she and her husband moved in about a year ago, she’s seen multiple red flags that prompted her interest in seeing Sugai leave the neighborhood: people with pistols tucked in their pants going in and out of the home, used syringes and plastic bags on the lawn, and then there was the shooting last summer.
Trina Cook, who’s lived two doors down from the home for seven years, said she was grateful the city was finally doing something.
“There were people always coming in and out of the house,” she said. “The camper here in the yard was a drug camper.”
Ponto said weather and “the amount of cleanup” was why it took so long to get the house vacated.
“They don’t normally take this long,” she said.
But now that it’s less than 72 hours from being finished, Marlan said she’s overjoyed – especially with another baby on the way.
“It was a dream come true moving here,” she said. “We love West Central, and we wanted to buy a home. Then we move in here and this starts.”
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