As a rookie cop, one of my favorite jobs was searching for clues at crime scenes. If an object bore even a hint of a fingerprint, I’d have it buried under a blanket of black powder before you could say, “That’s my new stereo!”
Despite my zeal, and the success of crime scene technicians both fictional and real, police officers are able to gather plenty of evidence without the need for high tech gizmos. One does not need an infrared camera or a DNA swab to decipher the information on items such as a receipt, a business card or the drink ticket on the side of a Starbucks cup.
In fact, that last item apparently broke a recent case in Olympia (Jeremy Pawlowski, TNT 3/5).
According to the report, on February 19 a woman waiting at an Olympia bus stop accepted a ride from an unknown male who began groping her breasts. After offering money, the man threatened to cut her. She fought back and was able to leap out of the still-moving car, knocking the aforementioned Starbucks cup out of the car and onto the ground.
That cup was later retrieved by police, who used the information imprinted on it to track the suspect’s movements to a Starbucks cafe in Dupont. The low tech investigation switched gears when investigators used digital footage from the drive-thru’s surveillance cameras to match a car with the coffee cup.
A search on the vehicle’s license plate finally led police to the Dupont home of Bryon Johnston. This would be a good moment for a cheer and some high fives (if people still did that), were it not for the serious crimes police attribute to the 35-year-old Johnston: In addition to this assault, he was also a suspect in a November abduction and rape.
On Tuesday, Johnston was booked into the Thurston County Jail on a count of first-degree rape, another count of first-degree rape (attempted) and two counts of first-degree kidnapping. The women in both incidents reportedly made positive identifications of Johnston.
As serious as these crimes are, it could have been much worse. If allegations prove true, this was likely just the opening act of what could have been the ongoing performance of a serial rapist.
Much credit goes to the cop(s) who had the diligence to locate and follow up on the evidence. The community should also be very grateful for the cooperation of Starbucks, whose security systems and accountability paid dividends for public safety.
Most important, the credit for this arrest goes to the victim. Despite her initial mistake (accepting a ride from a stranger at a bus stop), her combative spirit and determination to seek justice should be an inspiration to future victims of violence.
Thanks to her – along with a camera, a cup and a cop or two – the streets may just be a little safer for women waiting alone at bus stops.