On Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, Des Moines Police Chief Ken Thomas held a press conference to address how he is “extremely disappointed” at the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) regarding the recent release of four carjacking suspects.

As we previously reported, an adult male and three juveniles were released from custody prior to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office or judges receiving the entire case.

UPDATE Nov. 2, 2022: On Wednesday afternoon, the KCPAO filed charges against the carjacking suspects. We will be publishing a separate story on that soon.

Police say that on Saturday night, Oct. 29, a sergeant with the Des Moines Police Department was flagged down by two male citizens in the area of S. 216th Street and Pacific Highway S. regarding a carjacking.

The victims were visibly upset and appeared frightened, and stated they had just been approached by four to five male subjects armed with handguns and demanded they lay down in the middle of the street. One victim said that a suspect pointed a handgun at his head, charged a bullet into the chamber, and then ordered him to hand over his personal possessions. The victim complied as he was in fear for his life. The suspects then stole the other victim’s vehicle after pointing guns at him.

In a press release (sent out before charges were filed), Chief Thomas said that he is:

“Extremely disappointed with this decision to release dangerous, armed, violent criminals back into the community with seemingly no consequence. During a time when violent gun crime is on the rise in King County, this lack of serious consideration to keep these most dangerous criminals in custody is a travesty. It is the top priority of law enforcement to help keep our community safe. These actions taken by prosecutors and judges undermine that mission. The two victims in this case were not taken seriously by our criminal justice system.”

We reached out to the KCPAO for response, and they told us:

“King County prosecutors share the police chief’s concerns about the release of armed carjacking suspects, which is why we argued for suspects in this case to be held in detention. Unfortunately, multiple suspects were released over prosecutors’ objection.”

During the press conference, Thomas said that a “checkbox” on a form used by the KCPAO and King County Jail was accidentally unchecked by a Des Moines Police Officer. He added that he first learned of this issue today.

We asked Thomas at the event about the timing of his press conference being within a week of the Nov. 8 general election, when a new Prosecuting Attorney is up for election; Thomas answered:

“No. I think you’ve heard clearly from the victim. You’ve heard from me. Somebody got a gun put in their face this weekend and thought they were going to be killed in the middle of a carjacking, and I believe they were released from custody for reasons that were not legitimate, and I felt as a police chief. I couldn’t sit back and allow our system to fail our community any longer and I needed to bring it up.”

Watch Thomas’ full press conference below (running time 21:26):