A 22-year-old man apparently high on drugs and naked from the waist down went on a rampage with a 35-foot boat he stole at the Queen City Yacht Club on Portage Bay in Seattle last night, ramming other boats and docks.
A witness, fearing for the safety of other boat owners on the docks, got a shotgun and fired at the boat thief to put a stop to it all, according to Seattle police.
A yacht club official who owns the stolen boat said a prelimary estimate is that the suspect did a total of $500,000 in damage to the marina and about a dozen boats.
The incident began shortly before 11 p.m. at the 2600 block of Boyer Avenue East along Portage Bay on a report that someone was using a boat to ram docks and other boats.
Before police arrived, the witness armed himself with a shotgun, fired and hit the man in the boat in the head and the hand, causing him to stop.
The man was trying to get away when police arrived, but he was caught and arrested.
He was treated at the scene and taken to Harborview Medical Center. His injuries were not life-threatening.
Several docks and possibly a dozen boats were damaged in the rampage, but no one but the suspect was injured, police said.
The witness who fired the shotgun was interviewed, but police did not hold him.
The suspect is under police guard at the hospital, and once he’s released, he’ll be taken to jail to be booked for investigation of boat theft and property damage.
The man who said he fired the shotgun was Dave Svensen, 69, a retired Boeing auditor, who splits his times between Anchorage and Seattle.
“I was protecting life and limb,” Svensen said. “I’m basically anti-gun.”
He said he was concerned that the suspect was about to ram a boat on which a guy was living and feared that the man could be hurt.
Svensen, who had been in the military and had served briefly in Vietnam, borrowed a shotgun from a man on an adjacent boat and fired several shots. At a distance of 30-40 feet, he doubted the shotgun pellets would seriously injure the suspect.
“I was trying to scare him … It worked. It stopped him,” he said.
Police arrived five to seven minutes after the shooting and he directed them to the boat the suspect was on.
As police removed the suspect, Svensen said he could see blood on the suspect’s face.
“He was half naked from the waist down and the best I could tell, he was high on drugs,” Svensen said. The suspect appeared to have trouble standing.
The boat the suspect stole belongs to Bob Myers, the club’s vice-commodore. Myers said when he got a call last night that boats had been damaged, he had no idea his boat had been ”used as a ramrod.”
Meyers said when he got to the scene, about a dozen police cars were there. An officer, who also did not know Myers’ boat was involved, walked him out to see the damaged section of the marina because he was the ranking club member on hand.
“I see the stern and I go, ‘Holy crap, that’s my boat!’ I was in shock,” Myers said.
Police allowed him to go briefly about his 38-foot Bayliner, the Par-A-Gon, before it was taken to a nearby boatyard to be inspected as part of the police investigation.
“He totally trashed it,” Myers said. “He just destroyed everything inside.”
Myers said there was a lot of blood in the boat, along with holes from shotgun pellets, and the bow was destroyed from hitting other boats and a marina support.
Myers, a retired Seattle firefighter, estimates the damage to the boat and its contents at about $90,000.
He and his wife have owned the boat since 1996 and live on it part of the year, so there were a lot of personal possessions on board, including electronic gear.
Another yacht club member, James VanWagenen, who came down to the yacht club this morning, said his boat was damaged, but because it’s under a section of roof that collapsed, he can’t tell how severe the damage is.
“You know how it is. Some people get drugs and alcohol in them and you don’t know what they’re going to do,” Van Wagenen said.
“This is why we have insurance,” he said. “I’m just glad no one here got hurt. Glad we didn’t lose any boats.”
Then he said it appears a section of the roof will have to be lifted away and removed by barge.
A yacht club member, whose son’s boat was damaged, said the idea of shots being fired at the marina was chilling. “I’m glad he did it. I’m glad I wasn’t in that position,” said Kent Soffel. “I think it would be very hard to make that decision.”
Greg Bolin, a yacht club member for three years, arrived early Monday to assess the damage.
“One of the roofs has collapsed, the corner support was hit,” Bolin said. “There’s a lot of wood and debris floating in the water.”
Bolin, who was not there during the incident, said that at first glance, his 33-foot cruiser, doesn’t appear to be damaged, “but one of the cleats holding it to the dock has been completely pulled out.” He may need to take his boat out of the water to inspect it for damage.
The man living on the boat described the noise of the boats and docks being rammed like wood being thrown into a dumpster, Bolin said.
The man told Bolin he had not “heard of anything like this before,” Bolin said, adding that he’s just glad no one at the yacht club was hurt.