Three agents arrested in fugitive recovery operation gone wrong

Door of residence broken down, occupants handcuffed

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

Updated: April 17, 2014, 6:26 PM

 

Two bail bond recovery agents and a former bail agent are facing criminal charges for forcibly entering a Vancouver home late March 20 and handcuffing at least two occupants who were inside.

None of the house’s three occupants was the fugitive whom the agents were seeking, according to court records.

Jason R. Stomps, 40, and Victoria Elaine Marie Jones, 31, both of Amboy, and David L. Smith, 30, of Kelso appeared Thursday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of multiple charges.

Deputy Prosecutor Dan Gasperino said the defendants broke down the door. The three individuals inside the house in the 1200 block of Northeast 65th Street were “held at gunpoint, made to handcuff together, put on their knees and had no idea who these individuals were,” Gasperino said.

“On the phone with 911, they were essentially telling (dispatchers) someone was breaking down the door,” Gasperino said.

Stomps and Smith faces charges of three counts of first-degree kidnapping, three counts of second-degree assault and one count of first-degree burglary. Jones faces a single count of first-degree burglary. Stomps and Smith are both independent bail bond recovery agents licensed by the State Department of Licensing; Jones is a licensed bail bond agent.

Judge Scott Collier held each of them in lieu of $10,000 bail.

Investigators said the agents failed to follow the mandatory protocol for a forced entry by a bail bond recovery agent.

Specifically, the defendants didn’t have reasonable cause to believe the fugitive, 41-year-old Courtney Barnes, was inside the residence at the time they forced entry, according to a court affidavit by Clark County sheriff’s Detective Rick Torres.

“Forced entry was made based on a sighting of a male subject who possibly matched the description of Barnes,” Torres wrote. “This observation was made from inside a parked car across the street from the home. Nothing was done to validate the address and confirm this is where Barnes was currently staying. In fact, the subject they were seeking is 20-plus years older than anyone inside the house at the time the forced entry occurred.”

Stomps and Smith also failed to notify law enforcement of their plan to enter the home, Gasperino said.

Tayler Waleske, 18, her brother, Quincey Waleske, 20, and their parents live at the residence. The brother and sister and 19-year-old Nathan Panoth were at home at the time of the incident.

According to court records, Tayler Waleske told police that she was upstairs in her room when she heard someone pounding on the front door. She said she went to the door, looked through the door window and saw a man outside. The man was shouting for her to let him in and that he was looking for someone named Courtney.

“Tayler told the male through the door that Courtney didn’t live there and to go away,” Torres wrote. “The male then told Tayler that if she didn’t let him in the house, he was going to kick the door in.”

She said she ran upstairs and got her brother out of the shower. She then went to her parents’ room and called 911 about 8:30 p.m., according to court records.

Quincey Waleske said he opened a window in his bedroom, spoke with the man and told him that “they didn’t know a Courtney Barnes, and he needed to leave,” Torres wrote. The man responded with another threat to kick down the door. Quincy Waleske said the man never identified himself as a bail bond agent. He, his sister and Panoth then closed themselves in a bedroom to wait for police because they were scared, according to court records.

When deputies arrived, they found the front door had been knocked down. Stomps allegedly was standing just inside the door holding a pistol and was ordered to drop the weapon. Panoth and Quincey Waleske were handcuffed together and were lying facedown on the floor. Tayler Waleske also was on the floor, and she was visibly shaking, according to court records.

Jones told police that the address matched that of Barnes’s girlfriend, who had posted his bond, according to court records. Smith had done surveillance of the house before the forced entry and told Stomps that one of the men in the residence matched the description of the fugitive, according to court records.

Jones said she attempted to call 911 to notify police of the forced entry, but police had already been summoned by Tayler Waleske on a report of a firearm being brandished.

All three defendants on Thursday indicated they planned to post bond. The judge appointed Vancouver attorneys Louis Byrd Jr. and Ed Dunkerly to defend Smith and Jones, respectively. Stomps appeared with Vancouver attorney Michael Green. Green said he was making a courtesy appearance on Stomps’ behalf but had not been retained.

Byrd said prosecutors may have difficulty proving criminal intent in the case and “who did what as far as culpability.”

Tacoma attorney Spencer Freeman said there are two different kinds of forced entries, planned and unplanned. In unplanned forced entries, bail bond recovery agents are not required to notify law enforcement beforehand.

“If it’s unplanned, it’s going to be very fact-specific,” he said. For example, if the agent sees the defendant go into a building, the agent may pursue the defendant without notifying law enforcement, he said.

He said even if the agents violated the rules of their profession, that doesn’t mean their actions were criminal.

“That’s a huge leap in my mind,” he said.

Jones was an employee of Regan Bail Bonds in downtown Vancouver at the time of the incident but has since been terminated for undisclosed reasons, said the company’s owner, David Regan. Stomps and Smith are independent contractors who work for a variety of bail bonds companies, Regan said.

Barnes is still at large, Regan said. He is wanted on multiple warrants. Regan asked anyone with information about Barnes to call 911.