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Undercover Tacoma cop investigating street racing outed on Instagram, charges say

Sept. 21, 2022 Updated Wed., Sept. 21, 2022 at 7:50 p.m.

By Peter Talbot The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

A 21-year-old man has been accused in Pierce County Superior Court of revealing on Instagram the identity of a Tacoma police detective who was investigating street racing crimes.

The man was charged Tuesday with cyber harassment against an officer for a post he made earlier this month. According to charging documents, the detective was first outed at a street-racing event, and an Instagram account posted a photo of the man’s face, vehicle and license plate. The defendant allegedly reposted the photo and added the detective’s name, saying he “really be in the streets.”

The crime is a felony under the section of the law the defendant is charged with. He is not in custody, and he is to appear for arraignment Oct. 5. A message sent by The News Tribune to the Instagram account allegedly owned by the defendant went unanswered.

Prosecutors wrote in charging documents that the detective was working undercover Sept. 2 looking for someone suspected in connection to street-racing crimes. He found the suspect, but as other police moved in to make the arrest, family members of the person saw the detective and confronted him.

“He’s undercover!” family of the suspect yelled while taking photos of the detective, according to the declaration for determination of probable cause. Fearing for his safety, the detective drove away. Hours later, an Instagram account posted images of the detective with the caption: “If yall see him at any other meets… break his shit slice tires idccc…sick of these mfs…repost.”

The post was shared by other accounts in the following days, including one investigators believe belongs to the defendant. The person who made the original post was identified as a juvenile. According to the probable cause document, that person has also been charged with cyber harassment. An Instagram live video from the account Tuesday morning appeared to show the inside of a school cafeteria.

Detectives tied the defendant to the other account by finding one Instagram story that included a screen shot of Lakewood Municipal Court, records say. Another post showed a selfie of the defendant at court. According to the probable cause document, the undercover detective recognized him, saying that he testified against the man in June. Court records show the defendant has previously been convicted of reckless driving and DUI in 2021.

The Instagram account tied to the defendant features glamour shots of his Lexus with the Narrows Bridge in the background, videos of the car doing donuts and images of street-racing events. The other account mentioned in charging documents showed similar images, including videos of cars spinning in the middle of intersections while onlookers record. One video showed a firework exploding in an intersection.

The events can be a headache for other drivers who roll up to a taken-over intersection filled with people burning rubber. Earlier this summer, Tacoma police said officers had been conducting emphasis patrols of the events since January. Several organizers have been arrested. Police described two 19-year-olds arrested in July as “prolific.”

The Instagram account tied to the defendant posted video of KIRO 7’s coverage of the arrests, adding the caption: “‘Prolific’ n gifted we da best.”

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