Video-surveillance footage and an anonymous tip led to the arrest this week of a 30-year-old man who is accused of robbing a woman of $1,500, running over her with a stolen car when she tried to stop him and firing a gunshot toward a witness.
Criminal charges filed Tuesday don’t include details of when or where Lavonte Smith was taken into custody, but he was booked into the King County Jail early Monday, jail records show. Charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree assault, second-degree assault and attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, Smith is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Smith was also charged in Pierce County Superior Court last week with unlawful possession of a stolen vehicle and attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle. In that case, he is accused of stealing a woman’s BMW in Tacoma in March, striking a vehicle occupied by Puyallup tribal police officers and crashing in the front yard of a residence, court records show. After flipping the stolen car, Smith was pulled from the vehicle by police and treated at a hospital for what prosecutors described as “significant injuries.” A bench warrant was issued Nov. 18.
According to the King County charges:
Just before 11 a.m. on Nov. 5, a man entered the unlocked side entrance to a dry-cleaning business in the 2000 block of Northwest Market Street and stole the owner’s purse, which held $1,500 in cash and an iPad. When the woman confronted him, the man pointed a gun at her before fleeing through the side door.
As the robber ran west, the woman chased after him, yelling for help. A man on the street grabbed the robber and ripped the purse out of his hands. The robber pulled out a 9-mm handgun and fired a shot into the sidewalk between the man’s feet, striking the pavement and ricocheting, shattering the glass windows of a hair and nail salon. The man dropped the purse and stepped back, and the robber retrieved it from the ground and continued running.
The woman chased the robber into a parking lot and as he climbed into the driver’s seat of what turned out to be a stolen car, she jumped across his lap in an attempt to get her purse back. A second man, who had just come out of a nearby store, saw what was going on and grabbed the open driver’s-side door but was knocked to the ground when the robber threw the car into reverse and accelerated at high speed onto Leary Avenue Northwest. As the robber put the car in drive, he shoved the woman out of the vehicle and ran over her leg as he sped south, the charges allege.
The woman suffered a double compound fracture and underwent surgery at Harborview Medical Center.
A Seattle police officer responding to the robbery scene spotted the suspect’s vehicle — a black 2003 GMC Denali without license plates — at North 42nd Street and Phinney Avenue North and pursued it as the driver turned south on Aurora Avenue North. Other officers joined the pursuit, but lost the Denali as the driver drove on the shoulder, cut off other drivers and hit speeds of more than 100 mph.
A detective obtained video-surveillance footage from several businesses on Northwest Market Street, which showed the suspect wearing a jacket, sweatpants and distinct red tennis shoes, and from businesses on Occidental Avenue South. He also canvassed for video footage along Central Avenue South in Kent after learning the black Denali had been stolen there on Nov. 2.
The Kent footage showed two men, one of them wearing the exact same clothing as the Ballard robbery suspect, pass by a mobile home park, where the Denali’s owner had just finished washing his car and had left the keys in the ignition. The Denali was seen pulling out of the parking lot 30 seconds later.
On Nov. 14, the detective received an anonymous tip from Crime Stoppers identifying Smith as the Ballard robbery suspect. The detective contacted a woman who knows Smith and she positively identified him from photos the detective emailed her. She also recognized the clothes and shoes Smith was wearing, the charges say.