As Allan Loucks sees it, he solved a murder and made the cops so mad they gave away his dead son's belongings.
Police say otherwise. They feel they had a major hand in unraveling the March 7, 1995, slaying of David G. Loucks, who was gagged with duct tape, hog-tied, kicked, and zapped repeatedly with a stun gun during a robbery at his Aurora Avenue recording studio.
The cops insist they didn't retaliate for Allan Loucks' help in any fashion. They call Loucks simply "vindictive."
But last month an angry Loucks, who swears a homicide detective "in effect . . . stole" $10,000 in electronic recording equipment from his son's estate, won a legal judgment. A King County Superior Court arbitrator, after determining the Seattle police made false claims to an insurance agent, awarded the Loucks over $4,300 from the city and Detective Kevin O'Keefe in settlement for the equipment.
The case eerily mirrors an alleged theft of $10,000 by another homicide detective that has put the SPD in the hot seat. But Loucks' claim is unique. His son's recording equipment was recovered by the police from a Spokane couple who unwittingly bought the stolen goods at a hockshop. At the case's conclusion, instead of returning the equipment to the dead man's widow, SPD sent it back to the Spokane couple.
Loucks, an attorney, considers it theft—first by criminals, then by cops—because the equipment (digital recorders and mixers) allegedly was intentionally given away by police in retaliation for actions the father took to solve his son's murder. The give-away also violated state law, Loucks contends.
"Nonsense, a fabrication. Loucks has a vindictive attitude," says Steve Larson who defended the city and the police against Loucks' claims.
That kind of talk sets Loucks off. "I solved this murder even though [the police] lied to me and pulled all kinds of crap, and then they gave away my son's equipment to spite me." Adding to the family's woes, David Loucks' widow, Alyce, 36, died last December 3 from a heart ailment.
Attorney Larson counters that "Loucks didn't solve the case. In fact, he almost lost it." Larson says he's referring to the killers' attempt to suppress evidence by claiming amateur sleuth Loucks was illegally acting as an agent of the government. But the court rejected the killers' claim, and prosecutors hailed Loucks' investigative role when they announced indictments in 1996.
Asked to comment on Loucks' story, Police Chief Norman Stamper did not respond; Detective O'Keefe apparently had no response either, hanging up the phone immediately.
Stamper last week announced his intent to impose a 12-point set of conduct rules on his department. (See James Bush's "The Case of the Tuggable Chief") He's hoping to corral a wild scandal set loose in March when veteran homicide detective Sonny Davis was first accused of taking and then returning $10,000 from an elderly man slain in a police shootout.
That case and others have put the department's reputation into question. Loucks says he already had his doubts.
"At first, I believed in the system and stayed out of it [his son's murder investigation]," says Loucks. "But then I began to encounter all these deceptions."
For example, police told him fingerprints couldn't be lifted from duct tape like that used on his son, Loucks claims, then later admitted they could do so—but had thrown the tape away.
"That incensed me—not that someone made a mistake, that happens, but that they lied to me for months," Loucks says.
Dismayed by the initial police probe, Loucks launched his own investigation, leading to the arrests months later of two men, Shawn Swenson, 25, and Joseph Gardner, 24, who were convicted in 1997. Loucks says the turning point was uncovering Swenson's license plate number on a car used in a similar Redmond theft just months before his son's murder.
After Swenson and Gardner were convicted, Loucks says O'Keefe suggested that since Alyce Loucks had already received an insurance settlement, the recovered stolen equipment should be returned to a Spokane couple who had acquired $10,000 worth of David Loucks' $14,000 in stolen property (some pieces were never recovered.)
"I said, 'I'm just as charitable as the next guy, but this equipment belongs to Alyce,'" Loucks recalls. "The insurance didn't cover all the loss, and she's still got debt. O'Keefe says, 'You can afford it.' I said, 'What the hell's that got to do with it?' He said it would be tied up in appeals anyway, so maybe it was a moot issue."
But the equipment was subsequently released from the police property room back to the Spokane couple, which Loucks says violated both his trust and state law.
"During the investigation of David's death, I raised hell—asked that some detectives be fired," says Loucks. "They made it clear they weren't happy with me. This was a way of getting back."
He says it also upset David's widow, Alyce, who filed the property-recovery lawsuit just a few months before her death. She claimed malicious intent by police who allegedly "secretly" and "in effect . . . stole plaintiff's property."
At the recent arbitration hearing, a representative for Northern Insurance Company said O'Keefe claimed the equipment was in California, was damaged, and that Alyce had agreed to the release. "The arbitrator," says Loucks, "found those statements to be false."
Larson still insists it's "not true" O'Keefe made those claims to the company, and while Larson concedes the insurance rep testified he was misled by O'Keefe, "he was not in fact misled," the attorney argues.
Nevertheless, King County Court Commissioner Marilyn Sellers ordered the city and O'Keefe to pay Loucks' estate $4,000 in principal judgment and $360 in court costs.
Larson finds it unfair. Loucks "has been on a tear, he's vindictive," says the attorney. "He's been waging a campaign against the department, the detective, Chief Stamper, and [King County prosecutor] Norm Maleng."
Exactly, says Loucks. "This is the kind of stuff that ought to come out in this police department investigation," he observes. And he has other motives, he adds. "This is for David and Alyce. Alyce didn't care if she got one dollar, she just wanted to prove police did this to us."