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Renton family robbed, threatened at gunpoint in mistaken identity case

(KIRO 7)

A typical weeknight turned into a horrifying scene out of a crime film for one Renton family.

At 8:45 p.m. on Monday, Steve Guggenmos and his wife Tracy were in bed watching TV, while their 17- and 20-year-old stepsons were in their bedrooms playing video games and doing homework.

All of a sudden, Steve and Tracy heard a large boom. At first, they chalked it up to the boys roughhousing, and Tracy began to get up to go check.

“We thought the boys were up to who knows what,” he told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

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But before Tracy had even gotten out of bed, it became apparent that this was no ordinary noise. A few seconds after the initial boom, Steve said that the bedroom door “exploded.”

Two masked intruders ran in wielding guns, yelling, “Where’s the meth? Where’s the cash?”

Terrified and shocked, Steve shouted that he didn’t know what the men were talking about.

Tracy, who was still weakened from breast cancer surgery a month prior, hid herself in the master bedroom, but one of the men found her there and dragged her by the hair out to the hallway.

Steve yelled at them to leave his wife alone. In response, one of the intruders hit him “as hard as [he’d] ever been hit” with one of the guns on the back of his head, causing Steve to start “gushing blood.”

The intruder made Steve lie face-down on the bed, forced a pillow on his head, and told him that they would kill him if he moved — all the while continuing to demand where the drugs and cash were.

Steve said he protested that he didn’t know anything about any meth or cash, but the intruders didn’t seem to believe him.

This was no ordinary, cash-grab home invasion, Steve said — these were sophisticated criminals tied to a major drug enterprise. The entire scene had been carefully constructed; Steve later found that the intruders had even known to park out of view of all of the neighborhood’s security cameras.

“They knew exactly what they’re doing, and this was really, really planned out,” Steve said. “They weren’t a bunch of guys looking around, ‘Hey, where’s the jewelry, I’m a tweaker, I’m going to sell your lawnmower,’ right? They were there for a reason.”

One of the men grouped Tracy and the boys in the hallway and began counting down to zero, threatening to kill them at the end if no one revealed where the meth and money were hidden.

All the while, Steve was still trapped at gunpoint in the bedroom, feeling a gut-wrenching mix of helplessness and terror.

“At this point, I can’t move,” Steve said. “I can’t see, because I’m on my face, on my stomach. And I’m only imagining what’s happening to my wife … I have no idea, but I can’t move, because if I move, they might take me out.”

After a few minutes that felt like eternity, the men ran out of the house. They took with them some money from the boys and the family’s cell phones, though apparently to prevent the calling of 911 rather than to sell for cash; Steve and Tracy later found the cell phones dumped in the same neighborhood.

With the petrifying ordeal behind them, Steve, Tracy, and their sons embraced each other, wondering if they would wake up and find that the whole encounter was just a nightmare.

“We were just kind of huddling with each other, shaking,” he said.

Shortly after, paramedics and King County Sheriff’s officers showed up at the door.

“They’ve been great to work with,” Steve said.

If the scene at the Guggenmos household sounds like something out of 2010’s “Date Night” or Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” — the kind of crime film where an ordinary person is mistaken for someone connected to a crime ring and threatened with deadly force if they can’t give the criminals a piece of information — the analogy is not far off.  King County Sheriff’s detectives believe that the intruders mistook Steve and Tracy for different people, people who would have indeed known “where the meth was.”

“It’s mistaken identity, it had to have been … it’s an upper-middle-class East Renton neighborhood, there’s no reason these guys should have been here,” Steve said.

He was firm that the incident had nothing to do with his stepsons, who, he said, “are good, good kids.”

In the meantime, detectives are trying to piece together the mystery of why armed intruders zeroed in on this suburban family — and to figure out whom exactly the Guggenmoses were confused for.

Steve worries that as long as the men aren’t caught, this could happen to other households, in Renton and beyond. He has one major piece of advice for everyone — get to know the other people on your street.

“If this is truly mistaken identity, which we believe it is, where is this going to happen next?” he said. “So my main message is, just get to know your neighbors. Talk to them, strength in numbers. Let’s get these guys caught.”

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