Rantz: Seattle judge releases homeless, prolific shoplifter caught stealing 70-inch TV
A homeless man is charged with burglary for trying to steal a massive flat-screen television from the downtown Seattle Target. Staff say it was the 22nd time he stole from the store in the past three months.
The entire alleged incident was caught on surveillance footage obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. And thanks to a lenient judge, the man was released on his own personal recognizance.
John Ray Lomack is a prolific offender who, according to the King County Prosecutor’s Office, has an extensive criminal history.
During the holiday season, Lomack was banned from the department store in downtown Seattle, a location that has been under siege by organized theft and homeless shoplifters throughout much of the COVID pandemic. Staff told police that he’s cost them $6,000 in stolen property since October.
But the trespass order didn’t keep Lomack from returning. He had his eye on a brand new television priced to steal — literally.
‘Prolific shoplifter’ tries to take TV
Surveillance footage shows Lomack wandering around the Target’s second floor, just outside the electronics department.
According to court documents, Target security recognized the “prolific shoplifter” from previous run-ins at the store, which they say had included physical assaults of employees.
As staff called the police, Lomack is seen eyeing three 70-inch television sets that are bound together by plastic straps. They retail for $749.99 each.
Lomack approaches the TVs, reaches into his pocket while he looks around the store, and surreptitiously pulls something from his pocket. He uses the tool to cut the plastic straps and free the television.
He then pauses again, wanders around to the other side of the television display, before slyly pushing one of the sets into an aisle. Surveillance footage cuts to Lomack then pushing the television on a shopping cart and into one of the elevators.
Lomack struggles with the massive television
Lomack emerges from the elevator to find security waiting for him. He ignores them completely while continuing to walk out with the television.
He gets more aggressive as security tries to grab the television and keep it in the store. Police note they see him shoving one of the security staff.
“At no point in time did he attempt to pay for the item,” the court document notes.
The homeless offender was not willing to give up the television. Despite struggling to maneuver the 70-inch screen out of the store, he finally made it.
Once outside, it looks like he needed to take a breather. Surveillance footage shows him leaning on the boxed television for several moments, perhaps to catch his breath.
After a few beats, he then drags the television down the street.
Police are not impressed by Lomack’s taste in televisions
An officer on patrol was flagged by Target security. They told him Lomack had just stolen the television.
The officer quickly spotted him dragging the stolen item away from the Target. When the officer contacted the suspect, “and advised him to unhand the property,” he refused and “stated that he had paid” for it. But, police note, “he was unable to produce a receipt.”
A second officer arrived and “immediately recognized Lomack as a person trespassed from the Target for multiple thefts.”
Lomack was told he was under arrest, but he refused to comply. After a “physical struggle,” officers put him in handcuffs.
The trespass notice
Lomack was arrested for burglary on Oct. 18 after being detained for shoplifting at the same Target. He was trespassed for one year as a result.
Body-cam footage from the incident shows him refusing to accept the notice that he may not enter the store again.
“I don’t want to talk to you, bro,” he tells the officer.
Lomack accused the officer of being racist. Then police warned him of the legal consequences if he were to return and if he were to steal.
“I didn’t steal nothin’, man!” he responded. “No, man! I didn’t burglarize nothin’. I’m not coming back to the store no more.”
Judge Kuljinder Dhillon released him
A King County prosecutor argued that Lomack should be held on $5,000 bail. She noted “warrant activity” on his 32 prior cases.
Since 1985, Lomack has been convicted of at least 18 felonies and misdemeanors, including second-degree burglary, second-degree possession of stolen property, and fourth-degree assault. This represents only a fraction of the cases that came through to the prosecutor’s office, according to a spokesperson.
Judge Kuljinder Dhillon was unmoved by the argument. He released Lomack on his own personal recognizance.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of story indicated Dhillon previously lowered the bail on a homeless suspect in an eye gouging incident. The KCPO erred in identifying Dhillon in that case; it was Judge David O.
Returns on arraignment and then released again
After some delays due to the holidays, plus a continuance, Lomack was back in court on Jan. 26 in front of Judge Melinda Young. But again, he was released.
Court documents call Lomack “medically unavailable” and cite he would “continue to quarantine until his quarantine period is done.” It indicates Lomack is either COVID-positive or came into contact with a COVID-positive person.
Like Judge Dhillon, Young also has a record of going easy on homeless suspects.
The judge previously lowered the bail request from $20,000 to $5,000 on a homeless man accused of assault and robbery. His lowered bail was paid by the NCBF. A month later, that man was accused of stabbing someone to death.
Lomack concerns the prosecutor’s office
Lomack is expected to quarantine at a homeless hotel operated by the Public Defender Association Equity Just Care Program. In a letter to the court, clinical supervisor Gigi Huang claimed Lomack is a model resident.
“It is our belief that John will continue to show progress at a 24/7 transitional housing program and work closely with our counselors on site,” Huang wrote.
But the KCPO is not so sure.
“We’re concerned with the defendant’s pattern of repeat behavior and are concerned it’s going to continue,” KCPO spokesperson Casey McNerthney told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “We’re also concerned he’s unlikely to return to court with his extensive criminal history that includes warrant activity on 32 cases. Only a fraction of those cases [go] to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.”
McNerthney notes that most shoplifting cases are referring to the City Attorney’s Office. But, he notes, “when there is an extenuating circumstance like this case involving a prolific offender, we file a felony case.”
Downtown Seattle is on life support
On a recent visit to the Target in downtown Seattle, a guard told me theft happens about every 10 minutes. He wasn’t kidding. I saw two shoplifting attempts in just 12 minutes. Target is, of course, not the only business impacted in the downtown core.
Homeless people have completely taken over downtown Seattle. City leaders do little to address the violence, open-air drug use, and rampant shoplifting.
City councilmembers flatly don’t care; they just tell you they do in press releases where they don’t face any questions or pushback. It helps keep them from accountability. They continue to maintain, however, that they won’t support meaningful moves on the homelessness crisis until there is free housing to offer. In the meantime, they’ll sacrifice the city center. How progressive.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bruce Harrell, who said he’d attack the issue, has yet to make any moves. It’s early in his administration, but you’d think there’d be something on one of the biggest issues facing the city. I did not reach out to his office for comment because I don’t need another meaningless statement on this topic.
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