Police say Pierce County Council candidate shot suspected car thief at Tacoma encampment

What started as an attempt to recover stolen property at a Tacoma homeless encampment ended in gunfire. Tacoma police arrested a man, but it wasn’t the shooter.

Wendy Haddow, spokesperson for the Tacoma Police Department, says on Memorial Day, a man took matters into his own hands and it turned violent. Officers responded to the Boy Scout Office parking lot off of South 19th Street just before 5 p.m.

The man, identified by Pierce County prosecutor Adam Faber, was Josh Harris, a Pierce County Council candidate.

According to the Tacoma News Tribune, Harris is also the candidate who bailed out three Tacoma police officers involved in the death of Manuel Ellis.

“A male had called South Sound 911 to report he had found his stolen property near a homeless encampment to the south in a wooded area,” said Haddow. “The victim said a male living within the encampment had threatened him when he went to recover his property.”

Authorities say Harris showed officers a picture of the vehicle the suspect was driving. Officers confirmed it was indeed reported stolen.

“While officers were checking the encampment, the suspect drove past the officers at a high rate of speed towards the Boy Scout Office parking lot,” said Haddow. “Seconds later, officers advised dispatch they heard shots being fired. The suspect vehicle then fled past them, headed back southbound.”

Authorities say Harris fired shots at the man driving the stolen car. By Harris’ account, the suspect was driving that car toward him at a high speed. Fearing for his life, Harris fired shots at the vehicle.

One day later, the suspect returned to the encampment. It looked as though their face had been injured. Law enforcement showed up soon after and arrested the 40-year-old suspect and took them to the hospital for medical treatment.

“When released from the hospital, the suspect will be booked into jail for assault 1 and possession of a stolen vehicle,” said Haddow.

Mary Anderson with Tacoma Metro Parks confirms the department owns the land where the altercation happened. According to Anderson, in the days leading up to the incident, they’d contacted police.

“We were working with the people who were in the camp closest to us,” said Anderson. “We had our security guards go down, along with our staff to check things out and see what’s going on and they were noticing what appeared to be stolen property.”

In a statement released to KIRO 7 News on Thursday, Harris said:

“On Monday afternoon I met with other citizens who’s [sic] vehicles where stolen and to retrieve their personal property. We contacted Tacoma Non Emergency to inform them of actions taking place because of a known violent and prolific car theif [sic] known to be in the area. We retrieved the items and noted a stolen uhaul car dolly and 2 stolen cars. A person I am helping to get back on her feet informed us that the car thief had told her he knew where I lived and was going to kill me and board my doors and windows and burn my family to death We left the area and gave notice to 911 that there were other vehicles located on the property. Officers arrived and went to check on the stolen vehicles. The suspect started one of the vehicles and charged the officers with the stolen car. He then drove up the road where we were waiting at a high rate of speed. He drove head on at me and with no place to run I drew my firearm and shot him in self defense. He continued driving into an eco block in front of me. He then sped in reverse boring [sic] down on the officers He drove up a hill, through the WASDOT [sic] fencing and continued up the pedestrian bike trail at a high rate of speed.

“This individual is a registered sex offender, prolific car thief, and had been shooting at random vehicles and violently threatening workers at south sound businesses.

“Our jail is understaffed, our judges lack accountability, and policy have [sic] handcuffed our officers from being able to protect the public and themselves.”

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