Police look for 1 stolen Anchorage SUV, recover 2
Anchorage police say they found a stolen vehicle that eluded an attempted traffic stop in a Spenard parking lot early Thursday – moments before a man pulled up at the wheel of another stolen vehicle.
Police spokesman MJ Thim said the events which led to 23-year-old Tony Tuaato’s arrest on Bentzen Circle, off Northwood Drive, began when officers tried to pull over a white 2001 Toyota 4Runner.
“We were in the process of making a traffic stop with the Toyota in the vicinity of Minnesota Drive and Tudor Road at 3:30 a.m.,” Thim said. “About 20 minutes later, we found it in the parking lot of this apartment complex (on Bentzen).”
Thim said police had run the abandoned 4Runner’s plates, which came back as stolen, when Tuaato arrived driving a 2001 green Chevrolet Tahoe. It too had been stolen, and Tuaato – who was wanted on a theft charge – also had a stolen handgun.
Tuaato also had two passengers in the Tahoe, both of whom cooperated with police and were released.
Police can now more easily charge passengers of stolen vehicles, Thim said, after the Anchorage Assembly approved an ordinance changing the standard of proof for the offense Tuesday from criminal mischief to criminal negligence.
A statement on the change from Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said only 35 stolen-vehicle passengers had been charged with criminal mischief since 2014. Those cases resulted in just four convictions, Berkowitz said, largely because “this offense requires the defendant to know the vehicle was stolen.”
In Thursday’s incident, however, police didn’t find that the passengers’ actions rose to the level of criminal negligence.
“We did not charge them with that,” Thim said.
Tuaato was held on his outstanding warrant, as well as new charges of vehicle theft and possessing a stolen firearm.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story said the charge, not the standard of proof, had been changed to criminal negligence.