Thurston County Sheriff Derek Sanders Defends Involvement in Pursuit; Bail Set for Defendant


Thurston County Sheriff Derek Sanders has responded to criticism about his pursuit of a 34-year-old driver who is accused of eluding police in a stolen vehicle and crashing in west Olympia on Jan. 5.

In video posted to Facebook on Saturday, Sanders said he intends to continue patrolling Thurston County in a limited capacity, despite recently taking office as Sheriff.

"I understand the criticisms and I understand there's some risk involved there," Sanders said. "But I just cannot live with myself sending deputies to go do work that I wouldn't do myself."

Sanders started pursuing the driver, who was sought by Tumwater police, on suspicion of driving under the influence. The driver eventually crashed in west Olympia, where he was arrested. Afterwards, the Sheriff's Office posted a smiling photograph on Facebook of Sanders with a K9 dog that helped track the driver.

By continuing to patrol, Sanders said he hopes to maintain a first-hand understanding of the challenges his deputies face in the field. He said that this would only take up about 5% of his time, given that most of his role is administrative.

"The longer I spend in this job, it's going to be even more imperative that I spend more time on the road, because there's going to be problems that come up that I never experienced as a deputy," Sanders said.

Sanders became Sheriff on Jan. 1, replacing long-time incumbent John Snaza, who lost reelection in November.

On Friday, Pro-Tem Judge Charles "Skip" Houser set bail at $50,000 for the driver in Thurston County Superior Court after hearing arguments from Deputy Prosecutor Alexis Egolf and public defense attorney Luke Swinney.

In an affidavit of probable cause, Egolf accused the driver of attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, driving under the influence and hit-and-run of an unattended vehicle.

However, the jail roster shows police also accused the driver of possessing a stolen vehicle and resisting arrest.

Lewis County Superior Court previously issued a warrant for the defendant's arrest on suspicion of residential burglary, second-degree theft and theft of a motor vehicle. Bail has been set at $25,000 in that case, according to the jail roster.

In a Sunday update, the Sheriff's Office said there is a Department of Corrections felony escape warrant for the defendant's arrest as well. This no-bail warrant includes convictions for assault, attempting to elude, felony harassment, possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of stolen property and unlawful possession of a firearm, according to the jail roster.

The affidavit of probable cause includes a supplemental report from the Sheriff's Office that describes the incident from the perspective of a deputy.

The deputy responded to help Sanders in his pursuit at about 10:27 a.m. Jan. 5. The report says Sanders spotted the vehicle driving the wrong way in a roundabout after the same vehicle was "involved" in an incident with Tumwater police.

In a Jan. 5 social media post, the Sheriff's Office said Tumwater police responded to a "disturbance" involving the vehicle. The driver of the vehicle then allegedly struck a Tumwater police vehicle and fled the scene.

The report says Sanders observed the vehicle fleeing at a high speed and driving back and forth between gore points on U.S. 101. At one point, the driver's vehicle allegedly struck a parked vehicle on Craftsman Drive Northwest.

The driver allegedly sped past a stop sign at Kaiser Road and eventually "came to stop" at Miter Drive Northwest off of Sixth Avenue. In the Sheriff's Office social media post, the vehicle appeared to have crashed into some brush at a dead end.

From there, the report says the driver and a passenger fled on foot. Deputies responded to the site of the crashed vehicle and set up a perimeter.

A deputy and a K9 dog named Igo started tracking the suspects with help from a Washington State Patrol aircraft. The K9 reportedly found a "meth pipe" along the way to the driver who was taken into custody.

Another deputy took custody of the man, who allegedly appeared to be under the influence of a substance, and transported him to MultiCare Capital Medical Center in west Olympia for evaluation, according to the report.

While there, the deputy requested a search warrant to obtain the driver's blood and search the crashed vehicle, a 1999 Mitsubishi Mirage. The report says Judge Carol Murphy granted the requested search warrant at about 1:26 p.m.

Another deputy allegedly located drugs in the crashed vehicle, according to the report. After leaving the hospital, deputies booked the driver into the county jail.