A 21-year-old Seattle man accused of breaking into a Capitol Hill auto-repair shop Sunday night, sparking a tense exchange between the business owner and protesters occupying the neighborhood, is suspected in break-ins at two other King County auto businesses in the past week.
Richard Hanks allegedly kicked off his crime spree June 11, when he was arrested twice in one night at the Mercedes-Benz dealership in the Sodo neighborhood, where he is accused of totaling one car and damaging three others, according to criminal charges filed Wednesday. He was arrested again Monday night after allegedly breaking into a White Center auto-repair shop and attempting to steal a car, court records show.
Hanks was charged Wednesday with second-degree burglary, theft of a motor vehicle and first-degree malicious mischief in connection with the Mercedes-Benz break-in, charging papers say.
Also Wednesday, a King County District Court judge found probable cause to hold Hanks on investigation of burglary and reckless burning in connection with Sunday’s break-in at Car Tenders, in the 1700 block of 12th Avenue, and on investigation of burglary and theft of a motor vehicle for the alleged break-in at Eric’s Import and Domestic Auto Services, in the 2800 block of Southwest Roxbury Street, according to prosecutors.
Between the three cases, Hanks is now being held in lieu of $75,000 bail, jail records show. Prosecutors expect to file additional charges on Thursday and Friday.
According to charging documents, two employees called Seattle police to report a man prowling vehicles in the Mercedes-Benz “overflow lot,” and the suspect ran from officers but was arrested a short time later. The suspect was identified as Hanks and was released from the scene because of booking restrictions at the King County Jail as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hours later, just after 4 a.m. on June 11, a patrol officer driving by the dealership in the 2500 block of Airport Way South saw brake lights come on in one of vehicles in the lot. The officer approached on foot and had to take cover behind a van to avoid being hit by a new black sedan, the charges say. The driver — later identified as Hanks — put the car in reverse and crashed into a parked car, then crashed into two more cars as he accelerated forward. The car he was driving, valued at more than $32,000, was totaled, and damage to the three other cars is expected to exceed $10,000, according to the charges.
Hanks was conditionally released from jail Friday evening, jail records show.
Then on Sunday night, the owner of Car Tenders, on Capitol Hill, called 911 to report a break-in but was told Seattle police would not respond because the business was located a block outside the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (now known as the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, or CHOP), according to the probable -cause statement outlining the police case against Hanks.
The owner reported that the suspect had broken a window, stolen cash and other items, then started a fire using a cassette tape and hand sanitizer, the statement says. The owner and his son stopped the suspect, but they turned him over to protesters, who demanded the man’s release and toppled the chain-link fence outside the business before later pulling it back up, according to the statement.
The suspect later was pointed out to protesters, who forcibly detained him and searched his belongings, returning a stolen jacket to the business owner; a member of the crowd repeatedly punched the suspect in the face and the “suspect escaped in the brawl that followed,” the statement says.
“I have downloaded more than a dozen (social media) videos of this incident and can submit them as evidence once we are allowed to have our precinct back,” an officer wrote in the probable-cause statement, referencing the closure of the East Precinct because of the protests.
Around 11 p.m. Monday, the owner of the White Center auto-repair shop called 911 after receiving a notification via his security system that someone had entered his storage lot, having scaled a 10-foot tall fence topped with barbed wire, the probable-cause statement filed in that case says.
King County sheriff’s deputies arrived and arrested the suspect, identified as Hanks, as he was attempting to cut through a gate lock and presumably leave in a car where he already had stowed several backpacks, according to the statement.