Trigger finger

Gunless trooper makes a kinder, gentler bust.

VETERAN STATE TROOPER Gary Hughes wonders why a reporter would be interested in the story of his five-day suspension. "It didn't amount to much," he says. And after all, although the Yakima-area trooper was penalized by his superiors at the Washington State Patrol, he did get his man.

As backup to a fellow officer, he helped nab a wanted felon at gunpoint along a stretch of roadway in Grandview. A suspected drug dealer and a passenger also wanted on a warrant were taken into custody without a hitch.

However, Hughes was off duty and driving his patrol car in plainclothes. WSP policy requires he don a uniform or at least a department-issued jumpsuit. He also didn't inform his office of his status and transported a prisoner without radioing in.

Furthermore, despite what the suspect thought, the arrest wasn't exactly done at "gunpoint." More like finger point.

Hughes didn't have his service weapon on him. So he stuck out his finger, curled back his thumb, and formed a gun out of his hand.

Though it was daylight that morning in May last year, he walked up to the black Corvette, pointed his digit, and ordered one of the two suspects inside to step out. He did.

Who says Washington's cops don't have nonlethal arrest methods?

Hughes—taking his car in for cleaning after a drunk driver peed in his back seat the night before—spotted the suspect's car and called in the closest officer, a Grandview town cop. The armed officer, who arrested the other suspect, was surprised to later learn he was backed up by a trooper with an unloaded finger.

But, as Hughes told patrol investigators, there was no need to worry that the drug dealing suspect, Ricardo Sillers, was dangerous.

"Mr. Sillers is a runner, not a fighter," Hughes said. "If Mr. Sillers is going to beat up anybody, he's going to beat up a woman. And I wasn't wearing a dress that day."

That kind of talk doesn't go over well with WSP commanders who enforce officer conduct policy and maintain the WSP's generally good image. As Seattle Weekly has recently reported, that image has been tarnished by, among other incidents, the arrest of two troopers alleged to have promoted or participated in prostitution and the reprimand of another who accused an abortion clinic-bound driver and his girlfriend of murder.

According to WSP captain William Larson, Hughes has a few other marks against him. The trooper once failed to properly frisk a prisoner who, he later learned, left a .45 pistol in the back seat of the patrol car. Hughes also left his gun belt and keys behind when he got out to arrest a drunk driver—locking himself, unarmed, out of his patrol car.

After 24 years as a state trooper in the wilds of the Yakima Valley, Hughes concedes he needs to shed some of his old ways. "I've been involved in pursuits to the point where I've showed up at the district office in . . . shoes without socks, with my patrol pants on, a sleeveless white T-shirt, and a gun belt hastily strapped around my waist," he says. "And there didn't seem to be a problem at that time."

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