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Ballard father takes on RV thief; doesn’t feel safe in Seattle anymore

RVs in Ballard. (KIRO 7)

It seems that every day there is another story of a despicable crime committed by a drug addict in Seattle, but one criminal sank to a new low when he broke into a Ballard man’s camper and stole the box containing his father’s ashes.

Shawn Telford, who lives near Eighth Avenue Northwest in Ballard, loves nothing more than taking his son camping all over the Puget Sound in the family camper. Telford keeps his father’s ashes close to him on the dashboard of the camper as a tribute to the man who first gave him his love of nature.

“My dad was responsible for getting me this vehicle, and after he passed, I kept some of his ashes inside of it,” Telford said. “Because my dad taught me to appreciate the great outdoors, and I’m trying to do that with my son. And we take Grandpa Gary with us on these trips.”

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On Oct. 4, the day before Telford and his son were scheduled to depart on a weekend camping trip to Sol Duc Hot Springs in Olympic National Park, someone broke the window of the camper — parked behind Telford’s house — and stole Telford’s son’s toys, along with other personal items.

Feeling violated by the theft, Telford decided to catch the crooks if they returned. That night, he camped out in the back of the camper, covering the windows so that he would be hidden from sight.

“I waited there to protect my property and protect my home, and ensure that no more damages would be done,” he said.

The chase

Early the next morning, around 6 a.m., Telford heard a vehicle coming up the drive. Sure enough, the next minute, the driver’s side door of the camper opened.

“The guy didn’t even look back to see if anybody was in there — he just reached in and started grabbing stuff,” Telford said. “The first thing he grabbed was my dad’s ashes — he just grabbed that.”

At that moment, Telford threw off his sleeping bag, revealed himself, and shined a bright light in the prowler’s face. Holding Telford’s father’s ashes, the thief made a run to a nearby RV encampment “where he knew that his friends would protect him and help him to escape,” Telford said.

One of the RV-dwellers gave the thief a bicycle, which he hopped on. Telford ran after the criminal, knocked him off the bike, and tackled him. However, the other inhabitants of the RV camp soon turned up to help their comrade.

“Now I’m surrounded by about 10 to 12 people that know this guy, and they’re friends with him,” Telford said.

One of the men chased Telford with a steel pry bar, allowing the prowler to escape again on the bike. But Telford followed and tackled him again. That’s when the thief pulled out a knife.

RELATED: Woman mauled by dogs at RV camp begs Seattle City Council for help

Although the thief managed to escape, Telford was happy to find that the criminal had dropped the box containing his father’s ashes in the road near his house. The prowler had also left behind a motorcycle, which police discovered was stolen, as well as an ASP baton, which Telford suspects was used to break his camper’s window.

With crime running rampant in what was once an idyllic neighborhood for families, Telford said that he and his neighbors feel helpless. Right across the street from where their children play was, until a few days ago, what Telford calls a “heroin vending machine” — the RV encampment where Telford is sure drugs were being exchanged on a daily basis.

RELATED: Backpack full of needles found across street from Ballard school

The encampment was removed by the city this week, but before its removal, it included RVs, tents, and old school buses that housed an estimated 30 to 40 people, Telford said. While walking by the encampment one day, he said that he even overheard two men talking about burglarizing a house.

“We are being overwrought with these criminals,” Telford said, describing them as “malicious criminals who are out there to steal, rob, intimidate, and harass this entire neighborhood, so that they can steal our property and take anything and trade it for drugs.”

Three types of homeless

Telford believes that there are three types of homeless: families and poorer people who are simply down on their luck, financially; and drug addicts and people suffering from mental illness who could recover if there were enough services readily available.

It is the third group, however, that is dangerous — and unfortunately, the most numerous in Seattle, Telford argues.

“The third group is the hardcore, lifelong opiate zombies and violent criminals that have ganged up in a Max Max-style terrorist camp that refuse any and all services,” Telford said. “They run amok on the community, they steal, they rob, they’re bandits, and they harass people out walking their dogs or just enjoying this beautiful city that we live in.”

Telford was luckily able to replace his camper window, and he and his son were still able to take the planned trip to the Olympic Peninsula. However, having seen the crimes taking place in his family-filled neighborhood, Telford now lives in fear of what could happen next.

“I still don’t feel safe in my own home,” he said.

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