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Friday, July 13, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Fake officer safety risk; stays in jail

Seattle Times staff reporter

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He was the mystery "officer" who sped away from a fender-bender in a patrol car and shouted at jaywalkers.

King County prosecutors say they have this police imposter, and they have filed charges of taking a motor vehicle without permission and eluding police, both felonies, against Zachary Davis, 18, the son of a slain Seattle police officer.

The charges were filed yesterday in King County Superior Court in connection with a string of incidents that ended with Davis allegedly taking a patrol car and leading police on a chase.

Mistaking another cruiser for the suspect, the pursuing officers rammed the other car and exchanged gunfire.

Police first thought something was awry Saturday when a sergeant saw a patrol car hit a parked car as it left a parking lot near Occidental Avenue South and South Washington Street. It sped away with its lights flashing.

The sergeant radioed for the officer in the patrol car to meet him at the Public Safety Building, but no one showed up. The patrol car was later found at the West Precinct, court documents say.

Two days later, two bicycle patrol officers were at Fifth Avenue North and Harrison Street near the Polly Esther's nightclub. They saw a patrol car stopped, its overhead lights flashing. They rode up to say hello and saw that the driver was a young man, 18 to 21 years old, who prosecutors believe was Davis.

He was wearing a baseball cap, pulled down low, and a mountain-bike patrol jacket. He sped off, running the red light at the intersection.

The officers were told by three employees of Polly Esther's that for two weeks, on Friday and Saturday nights, the patrol car had been parked outside the club and that the "officer" inside had shouted at jaywalkers.

They said he also came into the club, carrying a can of pepper spray. They said he told them he did not carry a gun.

On Tuesday, Officers Richard Traverso and Thomas McLaughlin saw a patrol car being driven by an unknown man near Third Avenue and James Street. They followed and turned on their flashing lights but lost sight of the cruiser as it ran red lights and turned west on Roanoke, the court documents say.

Another patrol car, driven by Officer Chris Anderson, joined the pursuit.

Traverso and McLaughlin mistook Anderson's car for the stolen cruiser and rammed it. Anderson mistakenly thought the driver was attacking him, and the three exchanged gunfire. No one was hurt.

Meanwhile, the number of the car being chased had been broadcast over the police radio, alerting an officer who recognized it as one he usually drives. He knew the cruiser had not been in the North Precinct parking lot at the beginning of his shift, and he went there. According to court documents, he saw Davis, wearing a department-issued Kevlar vest, walking out the driveway.

On the ground was a bike-patrol jacket. Davis was arrested.

On Wednesday, Davis' attorney asked that he be released from jail to get a mental-health evaluation, but the judge called him a safety risk and ordered him held in lieu of $25,000 bail.

Davis was 12 when his patrol-officer father was killed. The boy become a kid brother to many Seattle officers and often tagged along with them.

King County prosecutor's spokesman Dan Donohoe said additional charges of impersonating an officer may be filed.

Davis, who is to be arraigned July 24, is facing up to three months in jail, Donohoe said.

Nancy Bartley can be reached at 206-464-8522 or nbartley@seattletimes.com.

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