An 18-year-old Seattle man who allegedly led police on a 17-minute chase around Capitol Hill early Tuesday in a stolen garbage truck was charged Thursday in connection with the destructive joy ride that caused thousands of dollars in damage.
King County prosecutors Thursday charged an 18-year-old Seattle man with theft of a motor vehicle, assault and attempting to elude police for allegedly stealing a garbage truck and going on a destructive joy ride that caused thousands of dollars in damage.
Mussie Alemu, who is accused of leading police on a 17-minute chase around Capitol Hill early Tuesday, remains jailed in lieu of $150,000 bail. Prosecutors also included a special allegation of endangerment, alleging police officers, pedestrians and motorists were in endangered by the stunt, though no one was hurt.
Alemu was charged with two counts of second-degree assault, one count for allegedly driving the 25-ton garbage truck directly at an officer in a patrol car and the second for allegedly driving head-on into a second garbage truck, forcing the driver to bail out of his vehicle, charging papers say.
Alemu “endangered dozens of officers and civilians by running red lights, driving in the opposite lane of travel, and colliding with multiple parked vehicles,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Worley wrote in charging documents. “After puncturing the fuel tank and leaking diesel fuel through the Capitol Hill area, the defendant was finally taken into custody after he again deliberately veered into oncoming traffic and crashed head on into a different garbage truck.”
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The incident began a little after 6 a.m. Tuesday when a driver for Republic Services backed into an alley behind the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct to empty garbage bins. The driver was confronted by Alemu, who was acting strangely and swore and lunged at the driver, charging documents say.
The driver later told police Alemu didn’t harm him, but “he did believe he was going to attack him,” the charges say.
The driver left the truck running with the air brakes engaged and went inside the police precinct, at 1519 12th Ave., to report Alemu’s bizarre behavior. When he returned to the alley he saw Alemu driving off in the garbage truck, charging papers say.
Heading north on 12th Avenue, Alemu drove the truck into the precinct’s east wall, also hitting a light pole and two trees and sheering off sprinkler pipes on the building’s exterior, the charges say. At least one officer had to run off the sidewalk to avoid being hit, they say.
Ignoring officers’ commands to stop, Alemu intentionally drove at an officer in a patrol car on East Pine Street, forcing the officer “to make a very quick, evasive maneuver” to avoid a collision, say the charges. Other officers did the same thing at different points during the incident to keep their patrol cars from being struck.
Because the air brakes were still on, officers reported that the brakes were smoking as Alemu drove in opposing lanes and ran red lights in an area roughly bordered by Olive Way to the north, East Pike Street to the south, 13th Avenue to the east and Melrose Avenue to the west, the charges say.
During the rampage, Alemu intentionally swerved into a Pronto Cycle Share bike rack, completely destroying 11 bicycles and 12 meters, and dragging bicycles down the street as he drove north on Bellevue Avenue, charging papers say. The damage was estimated at $20,000 to the bike station. The collision also caused undercarriage damage to the garbage truck, rupturing the fuel tank and causing a blocks-long diesel spill, the charges say.
Because Alemu was unable to release the brakes on the truck, the brakes malfunctioned as he drove into the opposing lane on Bellevue Avenue, crashing head-on into a CleanScapes truck, the charges say. By then, “officers following the truck observed that its brakes were visibly on fire,” according to the charges.
Alemu exited the truck and climbed onto the roof before officers were able to arrest him, the charges say.
Damage to the 2009 Mack garbage truck was estimated to be at least $50,000, but the truck — valued at $180,000 to $200,000 — may be a total loss, charging papers say. According to the charges, police will also collect damage estimates from CleanScapes and motorists whose vehicles were struck on Boylston Avenue.