Crime

Citizen captures man suspected in Bellingham car-stealing spree

Man describes capturing suspected car thief

Rob Stamm of Bellingham explains how he caught a man trying to drive off with his car. Police arrested Marshall Lee May, 27, after a series of car thefts that began in Bellingham on Friday, June 10, and ended with the arrest around 4:30 p.m.
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Rob Stamm of Bellingham explains how he caught a man trying to drive off with his car. Police arrested Marshall Lee May, 27, after a series of car thefts that began in Bellingham on Friday, June 10, and ended with the arrest around 4:30 p.m.

A spree of car thefts Friday, June 10, ended when the man suspected of them picked the wrong car to take.

Marshall May, 27, of Seattle was yanked from a Dodge Neon by its rightful driver and held down until police arrived. His arrest shortly after 4:30 p.m. at a gas station at Guide Meridian and Smith roads, just north of city limits, ended a daylong hunt for a man who stole multiple cars.

Investigators were still trying to piece together how many cars were stolen and from where.

How the spree unfolded:

Around 9 a.m., Zodiac Airline Cabin Interiors, 3225 Woburn St.: An employee tells police he had parked his black 1998 Jeep Cherokee in Zodiac’s parking lot at about 5:30 a.m. When he returned a few hours later, it was gone.

The man directs officers to the area of the lot where the Jeep had been parked. Nearby is a Subaru that police determine was stolen in Seattle, Bellingham Police Sgt. Carr Lanham said.

Around 9:30 a.m., near the 100 block of North Commercial Street: Police receive reports of a man trying doors on a Subaru parked along Commercial Street, Lanham said.

Timothy Shea, who owns Hundred North, a restaurant going in at 100 N. Commercial St., is there working on renovations. Shea sees a man in a nearby parking lot inserting a key into a Subaru but thinks nothing of it at the time.

When Shea looks up a few moments later, the man is standing at another Subaru. Shea pulls out his phone, turns on the camera, and approaches the man.

The man, according to Shea’s account, asks for directions to Interstate 5. Shea ignores the question.

“I said, ‘What’s your problem, why are you trying to break into people’s cars?’” Shea said, recalling the encounter.

Shea tells the man he is calling police.

The man, who has a keychain full of what appears to be car keys, gets into a black Jeep Cherokee and leaves. The man, according to Shea, does not appear to be drunk or high.

Around 10:45 a.m., 925 N. Forest St.: A man reports his Subaru Impreza is missing. A black Jeep Cherokee is parked next to where the Impreza had been parked, Lanham said.

Around 11:30 a.m., along Northwest Avenue: The car thief tries to steal a Toyota Land Cruiser, Lanham said. The suspect leaves in the Impreza.

Around 1 p.m., Wilson Motors Nissan, 1516 Iowa St.: The suspect tries using a slim jim tool to unlock a green Nissan Pathfinder, said Lt. Mike Johnston.

Around 4:30 p.m., Guide and Smith roads: A man is seen trying to steal a car from Rod’s Japanese Auto Care, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Rodger Funk. He is not able to take the car.

He then pulls a stolen silver Subaru Legacy to the adjacent Chevron station and parks it next to a blue Dodge Neon, Funk said. This car would be his last.

The Neon driver, Rob Stamm, 37, of Bellingham had left the keys in his wife’s car as he ran into Starvin Sam’s to grab a Gatorade. When he came out, he thought he was heading to the wrong car when he saw a man inside it. Then, he said, he realized what was happening.

Stamm ran up to the car to get the man out. May threw the Neon into reverse, striking three other cars as he attempted to flee the lot, with Stamm in pursuit, Funk said.

Stamm grabbed May through the window and pulled him from the Neon. He held him down as others called 911.

Stamm said May claimed someone was trying to kill him.

“I told him he was going to be safe now because he was going to jail,” Stamm said with a laugh as he described the incident to a reporter.

Another man helped hold down May until police arrived within about five minutes.

May was treated for minor cuts before being loaded into a patrol car and taken to Whatcom County Jail.

At the time of May’s arrest, investigators were still taking stolen car reports. It was unclear how many car thefts might be linked to him.

Investigators also were trying to determine how the cars were stolen. They weren’t damaged, until Stamm’s Neon was driven into the other cars.

The name of the automotive dealership at 1516 Iowa St. was corrected June 13, 2016.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan

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