Seattle police: No cases compromised by men hiding at evidence facility

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SEATTLE - Seattle police said Thursday that no cases were compromised when two men hiding inside a trailer towed to the police evidence warehouse in SoDo had to break out once they were in.

Police said they don’t believe the men had planned to intentionally sneak into the evidence facility, but had been living inside the trailer when it was towed.

Detectives said the breach happened sometime on March 30, when a Seattle police officer found a stolen truck and attached trailer and had it towed to the department’s vehicle holding area at the Airport Way Center.

Though the officer searched the truck, the trailer was locked from the inside, so he notified auto theft detectives that the truck and trailer were parked in the holding area. The detectives would then obtain a warrant to break into and search the trailer.

The trailer sat in the facility for about 38 hours until a detective went to the facility on the next business day, the following Monday morning, to examine the trailer.

Police said sometime during the 38-hour period, the two men who were inside the messy trailer -- which contained mattresses, drug paraphernalia and stolen items -- ventured out into the vehicle holding area and sprayed down the inside of the trailer with a fire extinguisher in an apparent attempt to cover evidence.

After leaving the facility, the men told others about their experience.

 Detectives said they began hearing rumors and received vague information about the break-out in mid-May, but opened an official investigation on July 9 when a burglar facing charges on an unrelated case provided specific details in an effort to make a bargain with police.

 Police said in July they believed they had identified the two men -- one of whom was already in jail on an unrelated case -- and were attempting to determine whether they tampered with any vehicles in the holding area before they left the facility through a secure door onto a public street.

Initially, investigators believed the breach may have affected as many as six cases. They said 10 vehicles were parked in the holding area at the time of the incident, but four of those were not involved in active investigations. 

After reviewing all 10 cases, detectives determined that no evidence was compromised.

"Detectives found that evidence from vehicles in the holding area had already been processed and documented before the two stowaway suspects ever entered the facility," SPD spokesman  Jonah Spangenthal-Lee said Thursday.

Police said the men did not have the ability to access the department’s nearby evidence warehouse, quartermaster offices or vehicle processing room.