Vancouver police officer arrested

Detective arrested at his Washougal home, accused of obstructing law enforcement

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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A Vancouver police officer was arrested Tuesday at his home in Washougal on suspicion of obstructing a law enforcement officer.

Detective Jeremy Free, 40, with the Vancouver Police Department's missing persons unit, was initially stopped by Washougal Police Department Cpl. Troy Martin at 11:04 p.m. Saturday, said Cmdr. Allen Cook, Washougal police spokesman.

Martin had been following a vehicle through some side streets and pulled it over when the car went through a stop sign in the 5400 block of N Street, according to Clark. He said that when Martin walked up to the driver's side, the driver rolled the window down a half-inch and slid his driver's license and police badge out the window.

Cook said that Martin could smell a strong odor of alcohol and asked the driver to step out of the vehicle. The driver refused to get out of the vehicle and rolled up the window. Martin noticed there was a woman and two children in the car.

"This puts us in a difficult situation," Cook said.

If an officer lets a potentially intoxicated driver go, then the police department would be liable for any injuries or accidents, Cook said. The driver did not comply and denied he had been drinking alcohol.

By that point, other officers had rolled up to the scene to assist Martin. Cook said they contacted the Vancouver Police Department and confirmed that the driver was Jeremy Free.

"The officers were bending over backwards trying to reason with him," Cook said.

Later, Cook said, the woman exited the vehicle. He said the woman did not have any odor of intoxicants on her and tests showed she had not been consuming alcohol.

While Free still refused to get out of the vehicle, he slid to the passenger's side, according to Cook. He said Free was issued a criminal citation for first-degree negligent driving and obstructing a law enforcement officer and a traffic infraction for going through the stop sign — something Cook said officers would normally do in this situation.

The woman drove the car from the scene, with Free in the passenger seat, Cook said.

Free and the woman had cellphones in the car at the time of the incident, so officers figured they may have been recording everything that was said, Cook said. Washougal police obtained a search warrant to go to Free's house and retrieve the cellphones.

On Tuesday at 9:26 p.m., officers went to Free's home, knocked on the glass front door, announced who they were and what they were doing there. Cook said Free would not open the door. Just inside the house, there was a stairwell leading to a balcony area, where Cook said Free was standing, holding a handgun. Cook said Free held the handgun for several minutes but did not threaten anyone.

"It wouldn't be that rare for someone to initially have some kind of weapon in their hand at night," Cook said. "He retained the weapon long enough to really cause concern for our guys," Cook said.

Free called dispatch to confirm there were police officers at his house, Cook said. When Washougal police tried to reason with him and talked to him through a loudspeaker, he still didn't come downstairs, according to Cook. He said this lasted for about 45 minutes.

Free kept saying he would come out of the house but stayed inside, according to Cook. He said someone came by the house to pick up kids who were staying in the home.

"I don't know why he didn't come down and just open up the door," Cook said. "I don't know why he chose to do what he did."

When Washougal police were eventually able to get Free to comply, Cook said, Free was placed under arrest on suspicion of obstruction of a police officer and booked at the Washougal Police Station. He was released later that night.

"I commend my officers for doing what they did," Cook said. "As difficult as it was, they were doing the right thing."

The Washougal Police Department is investigating this incident and sent the case to the Clark County Prosecutor's Office for review. A court date has not been set.

Free's annual salary with the Vancouver Police Department is $74,676. He has been with the department since July 2003. Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp said he's currently on paid administrative leave.

Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops;patty.hastings@columbian.com.