Renton, Seattle police warn of suspects who stage car accidents, then car theft victims

Renton, Seattle police warn of suspects who stage car accidents, then car theft victims

The suspects will intentionally ram drivers from behind with the intent of stealing the victim’s car.

RENTON, Wash. – Police departments in Seattle and Renton are warning drivers about a trend in which staged vehicle crashes are being used for car theft victims.

Renton police say there has been an increase in vehicle accidents in which the at-fault driver robs the victims.

“We see this type of thing periodically, once every year or two, we have a similar incident where there’s some kind of ruse to get someone to stop and then they get robbed at gunpoint,” Renton Police Detective Robert Onishi said.

On September 8 at approximately 9:42 p.m., a driver was exiting the Renton Walmart parking lot on Rainier Avenue South when he was struck from behind by a vehicle. When the driver turned to check on two juveniles riding in the back seat, he saw three people exit the vehicle that struck him from behind and approach his vehicle, according to the Renton Police Department (RPD).

One of the suspects opened the back door of the victim’s car, sat down, and pointed his gun at the juveniles sitting in the back seat. Another suspect approached the driver and pointed a gun at him while ordering him to get out of the car, while another suspect got into the passenger side. The victim and the juveniles exited the vehicle, and the suspects immediately fled the scene.

“State law says that after a crash, you have to exchange information with the driver of the other vehicle involved, but no one says you have to do that in an unsafe location,” Detective Onishi said. “If you’re in a collision with someone and it’s not in a good location, or if it’s dark or suspicious or just doesn’t feel right, you can fulfill that obligation by driving somewhere brighter, or perhaps more populated, or “Maybe the police station, call 911 and tell me I was in this collision but I’m stressed out because of this circumstance.”

The Seattle Police Department shared a post Tuesday about two similar incidents in the Rainier Valley neighborhood. In both cases, the car was rear-ended and when the victims got out of their car to talk to the other driver, other people got out of the car and stole the victims’ car at gunpoint.

“As to whether they are the same suspects, that has not been determined yet,” said Gudina Golban, public information officer for the Seattle Police Department. “But in terms of how the accident occurred, our view is that it was a rear-end collision and when the victims exit their vehicle to exchange information, that is when the vehicle theft occurs.”

A similar incident occurred in Maple Valley in late August. A woman reported that she was hit from behind, then someone got out of the car and approached her with a gun. In total, five suspects got out of the car, hijacked the woman’s car and fled the scene in both cars. The suspects led police on a car chase that led to a fatal crash. The driver of the car was killed and two passengers were injured when it crashed into a tree.

Renton Police offered these tips for drivers:

  • Pay attention to your surroundings at all times
  • If you are leaving a parking lot, drive a lap or two around the parking lot to see if anyone is tracking your movements. If you feel you are being followed, go to a 24/7 police station, emergency room or other high-traffic location
  • If you are hesitant to exit your vehicle after the collision, move to a safe place while calling 911 and tell the police station why you left the scene of the accident and where officers can meet you
  • If you are arrested in a similar incident, try to remember as much as you can about the vehicle involved, the suspects, the license plate, and the direction in which the suspects fled.
  • Keep your personal belongings close by instead of putting them in the back seat
  • Leave your Apple Air Tag or other tracking device in your car

Detective Onishi says if an armed person threatens you at gunpoint, surrender the car.

“If it comes down to: ‘I’m at gunpoint, someone is demanding your car here — your car is not worth your life,’” Onishi said.

For more tips, visit the Renton Police Department Facebook page.

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