Police have arrested a 26-year-old man they think has been stealing purses and bags from more than a dozen women in Seattle’s Chinatown International District, Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill neighborhoods over the past month and a half, authorities said Wednesday.
Detectives believe he is one of two men who has been approaching people — primarily Asian women between 40 and 80 years old — near their vehicles outside grocery stores, then grabbing their bags before fleeing in a vehicle. According to probable-cause documents, the man was allegedly involved in about 14 cases of theft at Asian markets in Seattle from early April to mid-May.
Most of the women had anywhere from $50 to $10,000 of cash in their purses, in addition to credit cards, cellphones, drivers licenses and jewelry, police said. In each theft, according to officers, two men pulled up in a vehicle without license plates next to the victim’s car, then one got out of the car and grabbed the woman’s purse or bag before driving away.
One woman, a restaurant owner, told officers her stolen purse had about $40,000 to $50,000 in cash inside, which she was about to deposit at the bank, according to probable-cause documents. She was unloading groceries into her car outside Dong Hing Market in Little Saigon at the time.
After another detective, who was familiar with the man from a separate firearm investigation, noticed him showing “a lot of cash” on social media a few hours after the Little Saigon theft, police eventually found and arrested him Tuesday at a car-rental lot in Renton, according to probable-cause documents.
Officers recovered a loaded handgun from the man and booked him into the King County Jail on investigation of multiple counts of theft and — because he has been convicted of a felony and is unable to possess firearms — unlawful possession of a firearm. He’s being held on $250,000 bail.
The Seattle Times does not generally name suspects until they are charged.
The Police Department’s bias-crimes unit also will investigate the robberies because of “the suspect’s repeated targeting of Asian victims.”
The arrest follows more than a year of anti-Asian attacks locally and nationwide during the coronavirus pandemic. This week, Congress approved legislation intended to address the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, The Associated Press reported. President Joe Biden has promised to sign the bill, which would speed up reviews of hate crimes at the Justice Department and make grants available to help local law-enforcement agencies investigate similar incidents.
No further information about the other suspect was immediately available.