A rash of punctured tires and slashed brake lines in Seattle’s Rainier Valley had victims living in fear for months, wondering if they were being targeted because of their race or religious beliefs, with at least one victim likening the experience to being terrorized, according to a Seattle police investigation.
With additional reports still being investigated and tallied, Seattle police have so far documented 21 cut brake lines and 53 incidents of punctured tires, with some victims reporting vehicle damage two or three times each since December, say charging documents filed against 36-year-old Mowlid Mohamed.
Mohamed, who was charged Thursday with first-degree malicious mischief in connection with eight named victims, was arrested March 11 in the 8300 block of Wabash Avenue South, where Seattle police had set up surveillance after finding one of two vehicles associated with him, say the charges. He was booked into the South Correctional Entity (SCORE) Jail in Des Moines on a Department of Corrections warrant, where he remained in custody as of Friday, jail records show.
Bail in the Seattle malicious-mischief case was set earlier this week at $25,000, court records show.
Des Moines police Sgt. Dave Mohr said Friday his department has been investigating slashed brake lines on 45 vehicles in the South King County city since around Feb. 22, causing an estimated $9,000 to $22,500 in damage. A detective is expected to refer a criminal case to prosecutors early next week, Mohr said.
Charging documents in the Seattle case also indicate police in Tukwila and Federal Way are investigating similar crimes.
Though the Seattle charges list Mohamed’s last known address in Kent, it is unclear whether he was living on Wabash Avenue South at the time of his arrest.
Court records do not yet indicate which attorney is representing Mohamed in the malicious mischief case. He is to be arraigned April 1.
In July 2018, Mohamed was charged with attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle after leading State Patrol troopers on a high-speed chase through Auburn, court records show. After violating conditions of his pretrial release, Mohamed was arrested by Seattle police in March 2020 for possessing methamphetamine, according to the records.
In a plea deal to resolve both cases, prosecutors and Mohamed’s defense attorney jointly recommended that instead of prison time, Mohamed serve 219 days in jail, and participate in the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program; they also asked a judge to order him to obtain mental health and substance abuse evaluations, court records show.
Mohamed, who became a refugee at age 12, grew up in extreme poverty and survived the war in Somalia that killed many of his family members, including his father and sister, says a report written in September by defense attorney Chris Manberg. Several years ago, Mohamed was in a coma and underwent brain surgery after he was attacked and repeatedly struck in the head with a baseball bat, suffering injuries that resulted in a seizure disorder; he was also diagnosed with psychotic spectrum disorder and suffers extreme paranoia, causing him to constantly fear he is being followed, Manberg wrote.
But Mohamed never showed up for his sentencing hearing in October and has since been wanted on a bench warrant, court records show.
According to the charges filed in the Seattle case, a right-handed man with a distinct limp was seen on several residents’ doorbell cameras — sometimes wearing a hooded garment and other times wearing a bucket-style hat and pea coat — stabbing car tires with a screwdriver.
On at least two occasions, the man fled after being confronted by witnesses, say the charges. That man was also contacted by Seattle police Feb. 26 after a witness called 911 to report a suspicious vehicle. Officers documented the call and the man was let go after he claimed he was having car trouble, according to the charges.
The targeted vehicles were parked in driveways and along city streets, roughly in the area between South Frontenac and Roxbury streets, on both sides of Rainier Avenue South, according to the charges.
Following Mohamed’s March 11 arrest, Seattle police searched two vehicles — a Geo Prizm and a Honda Odyssey — associated with him and recovered several screwdrivers, cutting implements, and clothing items consistent with those worn by the suspect in the video footage captured by neighborhood cameras, the charges say.
Police say Mohamed admitted to the crimes in a jail interview, first claiming he was retaliating against people who were following him, then likening the spree to a game, according to the charges.