Suspect in case appears in court
Harpo the English bulldog puppy is home safe now, but what a story he could tell.
Put up for sale, dog-napped at gunpoint, taken to a different state and rescued two days later from a suitcase.
After a three-hour standoff, Vancouver police and a SWAT team Sunday afternoon arrested 23-year-old Jajuane D. Etheridge at 4710 Plomondon St., No. 14, on suspicion of possession of stolen property. They found Harpo unharmed in a suitcase.
Etheridge was in the Clark County Jail on Sunday night with no bail allowed. Authorities said Etheridge is on parole for another offense.
Here is how it all happened.
Pat and Jim Steele raise and sell English bulldogs at Aldercrest Kennels near Oregon City. They have 18 adults and three puppies for sale.
After seeing one of their Internet ads, a man called the Oregon City couple and said he wanted to buy Harpo, 9½ weeks, and Rambo, 11 weeks.
The price for both: $4,000.
The agreement was to meet in a parking lot at Clackamas Town Center at 3 p.m. Friday.
Pat was a bit concerned because, “He called us on a cellphone that had a restricted number.”
But the parties arrived as planned. Pat offered information on how to care for the puppies and the man said he would get the money from his car.
“I told Jim something about him made me uncomfortable and would he walk over and get the license number,” Pat said.
The buyer came to the driver’s side of the car, where Jim was sitting.
“I saw a gun come in the window,” Pat said. “Everything happened quickly. He had the gun in the car against Jim’s face. He said, ‘I will shoot you.’ ”
He demanded Jim’s wallet, Pat’s purse, their cellphones and both puppies.
He grabbed the 9-pound Harpo from Pat’s lap and tried to get Rambo, but Pat leaned over the dog to protect it.
“Jim said you aren’t going to shoot me and grabbed the gun. … He had a hold of the guy’s wrist and twisted the gun so that it faced the windshield and was away from me,” Pat said.
“I had one of those moments when you think you’re about to die. … I have never seen a gun looking up the barrel and I was terrified.”
The suspect broke away with Harpo and got in a car that had been circling the action.
Pat praised Portland TV stations for running a photo of Harpo on Friday night newscasts.
On Saturday, Pat picked up the phone and a caller said, “I know where your puppy is.” She declined to say if the person is a Vancouver resident.
The couple could not sleep, Pat said. The Clackamas County, Ore., Sheriff’s Office was helping, but the couple were frantic.
Jim decided to drive to Vancouver on Sunday morning and ask police to help. When he arrived at East Precinct, he was told the effort to get Harpo was going down. It had started Saturday night.
Harpo gave police a little assistance when they arrived, Vancouver Officer Ilia Botvinnik said.
“The officers noticed the suitcase was moving a little, and they opened it,” Botvinnik said.
Jim is 68 and Pat is 62. Any reaction on the ordeal from their family?
“Our kids were furious with us,” Pat said. At least the five boys are. They also have two daughters.
But Pat said they did meet the buyer in a public place in broad daylight.
Is $2,000 a bit rich for a puppy?
“They’re worth every penny and more,” Pat said. “They are wonderful dogs to have. They laugh. They fart. They make us laugh.”
“They are not easily riled. They’re calm. They sit on the couch like a person and watch TV. They love “Animal Planet” and they love the Iams commercial that has a bulldog in it.”
Will the couple give up the hobby business they’ve had since 1969?
Not likely, Pat said.
“It’s what I get up for in the morning, to play with the puppies,” she said.