A Vancouver man is accused of shooting at his own car, which he said had been stolen from him, during a high-speed chase Tuesday night on state Highway 14.
Travis A. Jefferson, 30, appeared Thursday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of drive-by shooting. Judge Suzan Clark set his bail at $5,000 and scheduled his arraignment for June 9.
A prosecutor said Jefferson has no criminal history.
“It’s one of the more unusual cases I’ve seen,” Clark said. “Unfortunately, car theft is just rampant in this community, and the allegation is that he used kind of a little vigilante justice to recover a stolen car. By my count then, he is … going to be 31 and no prior history. I balance that against the very serious nature of the charges and that there is definitely some risk to the community.”
Investigators determined that at about 9:45 p.m., a friend of Jefferson saw Jefferson’s Subaru Impreza, which had been stolen, at the Mill Plain Safeway in central Vancouver. The friend waited in the parking lot while Jefferson and another friend drove there in another vehicle, according to a probable cause affidavit. Jefferson armed himself with a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun before leaving his apartment, court records state.
Jefferson confirmed the Subaru was his, and the men used their cars to try to block it from leaving, the affidavit states. However, the Subaru drove off, and the three men gave chase in two vehicles. Each described the Subaru as driving, “extremely recklessly in its attempt to get away, at times driving without its headlights on at a high rate of speed,” the affidavit reads. People called 911 to report the chase.
The pursuit was continuing west on state Highway 14, when one of Jefferson’s friends said that “if that was his stolen vehicle, he would shoot the tires out,” the affidavit states.
Jefferson told Washington State Patrol troopers that he rolled down the passenger-side window and fired three to four shots at the Subaru, attempting to hit the driver’s side rear tire. The Subaru then abruptly slowed and lost control, according to court records.
One of Jefferson’s friends tried to avoid hitting the Subaru but crashed into the driver’s side, with his vehicle coming to rest in the right ditch, and the Subaru stopped on the right shoulder, facing east, the affidavit says.
A man and a woman ran from the Subaru. The affidavit states investigators have not identified them.
Troopers located two .40 caliber shell casings near the crash and observed three bullet impacts on the Subaru, court records state. One bullet hit the trunk, just above the license plate. Another hit the driver’s side, rear passenger door panel. A third appeared to exit through the passenger’s side of the windshield.
One of the men told troopers he put Jefferson’s pistol in the trunk of his car, and officers found the handgun there. Troopers said Jefferson admitted he didn’t know how many people were in the Subaru, besides a driver, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit states the area of state Highway 14 where the shooting occurred is lined with residential homes, and there was light to moderate traffic on the highway.
During Jefferson’s hearing, the prosecution did not mention Jefferson’s two friends and whether they will be charged in connection with the incident.