An Everett man must spend a year in jail after eluding a sheriff's deputy in a high-speed chase, trying to cross the border without ID, and spray-painting his sports car black - but neglecting to swap its out-of-state plates - before getting arrested in rural Whatcom County.
Westley C. French, 22, a native of Hague, N.D., faces more time behind bars if he's found guilty of beating a man with a two-by-four in Snohomish County so he could steal back a recently sold pickup truck. Detectives believe that crime spurred him to head north for the border Aug. 24.
Police reports on the robbery were released this week in response to a public records request. They outline how around midnight French drove his green Nissan 240 SX to a home in the 3500 block of Lombard Street in Everett. He had just sold a blue '95 Chevy pickup to a resident there. They talked in the yard. Then a man rushed out of an alley with a baseball bat and whacked the resident in both legs, while French demanded the victim's wallet and the title to the truck, according to the reports.
One of the victim's friends, from Arlington, came outside to break it up, but a third robber came up from behind and struck him with a metal bat. French grabbed a two-by-four and attacked the Arlington man, too, according to police reports. In the words of investigators, the blows split the man's forehead.
Both injured men were treated at a local emergency room.
The robbers took the truck to a side road off the Mountain Loop Highway, pulverized it with baseball bats and flipped it over. (Police later found the Chevy, along with a discarded 27-inch Easton aluminum baseball bat.) The men headed toward Canada in French's car.
Twenty-four hours later, French found himself tailed by a sheriff's deputy in rural Whatcom County, near Nooksack. He sped up, sparking a chase that topped 75 mph in the dark. French spun around in a dead end and almost collided head-on with the patrol car, according to court records. Thirteen minutes after the chase started, the deputy lost sight of the Nissan.
French and his two partners got turned away when they tried to cross into Canada without identification. Afterward U.S. border agents detained them at Nooksack Valley High School, where the car had broken down, according to police reports. The Nissan had a new coat of black paint, but its disguise was given away by the hasty paint job, the North Dakota plates and a broken back window.
Sheriff's deputies arrived and asked French what compelled him to take off from the deputy's lights and sirens, according to charging papers. He replied that he had two choices: Stop or run.
"So I ran."
Court records shows French had five prior felony convictions in North Dakota: two counts of burglary, two counts of theft and one of unlawful issuing of bank checks.
The two other men - identified as stepbrothers Richard Andrew Genn III, 22, and Gregory Raymond Carson, 24 - were allowed to take a bus home to Everett, but police arrested them the next day at a Taco Bell in connection with the robbery.
Last week French pleaded guilty to attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle. Whatcom County Superior Court Commissioner Leon Henley Jr. sentenced him to one year in jail. He has since been transferred to Snohomish County Jail, where he's waiting for a trial in the robbery case.
Genn and Carson are awaiting trial, too.
Reach Caleb Hutton at email@example.com or 360-715-2276. Read his Dispatcher blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamcrime.