A Lake Stevens man who was kidnapped from a Kent convenience store and bound with duct tape spent three hours in the trunk of his car before he was able to roll out of the vehicle and onto a street in South Seattle, according to King County prosecutors.
Video-surveillance cameras from the convenience store captured footage of the man being assaulted and kidnapped early on March 15. Several hours later, a Tacoma police officer spotted the victim’s car at a park and arrested Teloma Leuelu, 27, of Federal Way, charging papers say. Leuelu, who remains jailed in lieu of $250,000 bail, was charged last week with first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery, jail and court records show.
“The facts of this case are alarming. The defendant repeatedly assaulted and threatened the victim, at gunpoint, over the course of about three hours,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Phillips wrote in charging papers. “The defendant not only kidnapped the victim but forced him to lay in his own trunk, with his hands, feet and head bound in duct tape. The victim was, thankfully, able to escape, but had to jump from the trunk of a moving car to gain his freedom.”
According to the charges:
Just after 8 a.m. on March 15, Seattle police were called to the intersection of 16th Avenue Southwest and Southwest Roxbury Street where a man, who had his hands, feet and mouth bound with duct tape, had just been seen rolling out of the trunk of a moving vehicle. Witnesses got the man, who was bleeding and had bruises to his face and ears, into the passenger seat of an SUV, and responding officers used shears to cut the man free of the duct tape.
He told police he had spent the weekend in Kent celebrating a family member’s birthday and had gone to the 7-Eleven at 26220 116th Ave. S.E. early that morning to buy cigarettes. Before he could enter the store, he crossed paths with a man who grabbed him by the throat and announced he was robbing the victim. The suspect, who was accompanied by two men and a woman, took the man’s wallet and car keys and demanded his bank card’s personal identification number (PIN), the charges say. One of the suspect’s friends attempted to use the victim’s debit card, but the victim gave a false PIN.
Angry at the victim’s deception, the suspect strangled him harder and the victim gave his true PIN out of fear for his life, according to the charges. The victim was forced into the back seat of his car and driven to a bank, where the same friend used the man’s debit card to complete a transaction.
The man was pistol-whipped as he cried and begged for his life, then was driven to a house where he attempted to escape. That’s when the suspect who had grabbed him outside the convenience store bound him in duct tape and forced him into the trunk of his car. The victim was driven around for three hours and tried to yell for help but the suspect threatened to shoot him if he didn’t shut up.
“He felt that they were going to drive him into the mountains and kill him, so he began working on trying to free himself from the duct tape. Eventually, he was able to get his hands free and pull the emergency trunk release causing the trunk lid to open,” a Kent police detective wrote in the charges. “He then rolled out of the trunk and onto the street, where several people came to his aid.”
Police reviewed video-surveillance footage from the convenience store, which confirmed the victim’s account and provided good images of the primary aggressor, the charges say.
Around 4:30 p.m. that afternoon, a Tacoma police officer went to View Point Park to investigate a report of a possible abandoned vehicle. When the officer arrived, he spotted another car that was missing its front license plate and questioned the driver, who was identified as Leuelu. After confirming the car was stolen during the carjacking in Kent, the officer arrested Leuelu and texted his photo to Kent police detectives, who determined he was the same suspect seen in the store’s surveillance footage kidnapping the victim, the charges say.