News Analysis Aug 2, 2021 7:08 AM EST

Washington state police reform goes into effect, violent crime ensues

A man showed up to his mother's home and threatened to kill a woman, her two young children, and his mother. Despite having probable cause to arrest the suspect, police officers were not authorized to pursue the suspect.

Washington state police reform goes into effect, violent crime ensues
Katie Daviscourt Seattle, WA
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One week after a series of new police reform laws went into effect in Washington state, residents have become victim to the horrific consequences of the reformed laws passed by Democratic Washington state legislators and signed into law by Democrat Governor Jay Inslee.

"Washington state legislature you need to fix this before someone gets hurt! This is not a partisan issue, this is a public safety issue. I don't care if you have an R or D by your name. Fix it," Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney said in relation to a horrifying incident that occurred in Whatcom County because of these new laws.

Early Friday morning, a Whatcom County man showed up to his mother's home and threatened to kill a woman, her two young children, and his mother. Despite having probable cause to arrest the suspect, a new requirement under the state laws, Bellingham police officers were not authorized to pursue the suspect after he fled the scene in a vehicle.

"While apprehending him was crucial, and obviously incredibly important to the victims, the new law prevented our officers from doing so," Lt. Claudia Murphy told The Bellingham Herald. "This is one of the unintended consequences stemming from the passage of the law."

Although officers' had established "probable cause," they were not legally allowed to arrest the suspect due to House Bill 1054 which prohibits law enforcement officers from pursuing suspects in vehicles unless they have committed vehicular assault, vehicular homicide, or have been driving under the influence (DUI).

According to Lt. Murphy of the Bellingham Police Department, the victim fled to an undisclosed location for safety purposes but suspect Timmy Frank Poirier (41) continued sending threatening text messages.

"I will break down your door in front of our poor kids and shoot you," suspect Poirier said in a text message to the victim, threatening to find her and kill her, Lt. Murphy reports.

The timeline of the domestic violence incident reported by Lt. Murphy is as follows:

On Thursday shortly after 11:37 pm, Bellingham police officers arrived on scene when the victim called to report that suspect Poirier showed up to the residence she and her children were staying at.

Upon arrival, officers found slashed tires on the victim's car along with words that had been etched into the side of the car.

Poirier had also sent a text message to the victim which stated that if he got pulled over by police there would be a shooting.

On Friday at 3:38 am, the victim called 911 a second time to report that Poirier called her and threatened to kill everyone she was with. He then stated that he was going to drive to his mother's home to "blow her head off," according to Murphy.

In anticipation of Poirier's arrival, officers went to the mother's home and the undisclosed location where the woman had been staying with her children and planned to arrest Poirier if he were to show up.

At 4:34 am, Poirier arrived at his mother's home in his Chrysler 300 and parked in the driveway. Officers attempted to make a traffic stop after he left the driveway but Poirier refused to stop and as a result of the new reformed laws, officers were not allowed to continue to pursue the suspect.

"None of the crimes Poirier committed fall under the definition of 'violent offenses'," listed under RCW 9.94A.030, Murphy told The Herald. "Officers had probable cause to arrest Poirier for felony harassment DV and malicious mischief 2nd DV, neither of those qualify under the new law as offenses for which law enforcement can pursue."

At 7:30 a.m., a passerby outside the mother's home found a handgun on the side of the road which was a  Sig Sauer 9mm that was purchased in 2015 and registered to Poirier, according to Lt. Murphy.

Around 10:15 am, Poirier called his mother and made further threats to kill her and the victim.

According to Lt. Murphy, multiple law enforcement agencies attempted to arrest Poirier using different methods for over 6 hours. Skagit County Sheriff's Office finally located Poirier at a local gun dealership where he was then arrested and returned to Whatcom County.

"Had officers been able to pursue when Poirier initiated flight, there is a good chance he would have been in custody hours before he was able to make it Skagit County and into a gun store," Murphy told The Herald.

"This is one of the unintended consequences stemming from the passage of the law," Murphy said. "Domestic violence crimes are exceedingly volatile and very dangerous to the survivors at the time they make a report. And as evidenced by Poirier, he continued to make threats, stalk, follow and harass even after he knew police were looking for him."

Murphy said that the crimes officers' had established probable cause for weren't permissible under the new state law.

Additionally, law enforcement officers can no longer pursue certain domestic violence incidents under the new reformed actions which includes domestic violence simple assault, violation of a no contact or protection order, and stalking.

Suspect Timmy Frank Poirier was booked into Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of three counts of felony harassment (domestic violence) and one count each of attempting to elude police and second-degree malicious mischief (domestic violence), The Herald reported.

This is not the only incident that rocked civilians under Washington state's new reformed laws.

On Thursday, Washington State Patrol reported an incident where they were forced to let a reckless driving suspect flee after they had crashed into oncoming traffic head-on then sped off.

According to Washington State Patrol Trooper Rocky Oliphant, victims and witnesses of the incident quickly advised WSP the direction the vehicle fled but Troopers were "not legally allowed to pursue the fleeing vehicle" under the new state laws.

In another incident that took place on Wednesday, the reformed laws prevented Pierce County Sheriff's Deputies from pursuing a suspect wanted for homicide.

According to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, "At 10:20 pm Deputies responded to a shooting at Kohl’s at 16918 Meridian E in Puyallup. One male was found down in the parking lot and was pronounced deceased. The suspect fled the scene and deputies were unable to locate him."

"A K9 Deputy was on scene within minutes, but with only having a description of the suspect and no probable cause for a specific individual, he was unable to track with his K9 to search for the suspect who was seen fleeing by witnesses," PCSO reported.

Because of Washington state's reformed laws, sheriff's deputies were not legally authorized to pursue the suspect wanted for homicide.

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