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His rampage through Tacoma left stranger shot, serviceman disabled. Here’s his sentence

A gavel cracks down. (Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid/U.S. Air Force)
September 14, 2023

A 48-year-old Port Orchard man has been sentenced to nearly two decades in prison for a drunken rampage through Tacoma that left a stranger shot four times and a military serviceman without a leg.

Jeffrey Poland pleaded guilty last month in Pierce County Superior Court to first-degree assault, DUI vehicular assault and second-degree assault for as part of a plea agreement with the state, according to court records. Judge Joseph Evans on Friday ordered Poland to serve 19 years, 3 months in prison, a high-end sentence that prosecutors and the defendant’s attorneys agreed to recommend.

He was originally charged with first-degree attempted murder and additional counts of first- and second-degree assault. Prosecutors wrote in court filings that the state agreed to reduce the charges as part of the plea agreement.

The Feb. 5, 2022, shooting and assault began at a Union Avenue intersection. According to court records, a woman was driving out of a parking lot just after 1:30 a.m. when Poland pulled up next to her at a traffic light and opened fire, striking the woman in the shoulder, rib, hip and neck. A passenger in the car wasn’t injured. Soon after, Poland crashed his pickup into a parked car nearly two miles south, in the heart of a business district along South Tacoma Way.

There, witnesses told police, a man was opening his truck’s door for a passenger when he walked around the back of the vehicle and Poland hit a car parked behind him, pinning the 24-year-old between the two vehicles and partially severing both legs. Witnesses ran to help him, but Poland got out of his truck and pointed a handgun at the victim and another person.

When a Tacoma Police Department sergeant arrived, he called for priority medical aid and then turned his attention to Poland, who was back in his pickup holding a pistol and appearing “obviously intoxicated,” records state. The sergeant drew his gun and ordered the man to drop his weapon. Poland reportedly threw it at the officer and drew another handgun. The officer continued to give commands and eventually, Poland threw the weapon to the ground and was detained.

The sergeant, Jeff Thiry, was later recognized by the Tacoma Fire Department for disarming Poland and immediately rendering life-saving aid to the man who was hit in the collision by applying a tourniquet to one leg and coaching a witness to apply a tourniquet to the other.

Doctors were able to reattach his left leg, according to court records, but his right leg was amputated. The man’s father wrote to the court and said his son, then a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, will forever be dependent on a device to help him get around. He said the incident forced his son to relocate to Texas to receive the best possible care from the Army, and it’s unclear whether he can stay in military service.

“If the Army decides he is no longer able to serve his country, he will then have another challenge ahead of him,” the victim’s father wrote. “One that he did not ask for, and one he did not anticipate, at least until retiring from the Army.”

The woman Poland shot, then a 32-year-old single mother, said in a letter to the court that the incident changed her life. Doctors told her it was a miracle she was alive, but she had to leave her job because she was shot right outside her place of work, and it was too difficult to return every day to the place where she nearly died. Stopping next to someone at a traffic light brings on flashbacks and panics, and she said she’d never forget Poland’s eyes staring at her in the moment before the shooting.

“This incident has broken me in so many ways. Physically, financially, emotionally and mentally,” the woman wrote. “I will never be the same again.”

Poland feels sincere, heartfelt remorse for what happened that night, but he doesn’t remember any of it, according to a document submitted to the court by his attorney.

He left his house in Port Orchard to get a tattoo, according to the document. A private investigator wrote that Poland said he drove to Tacoma and found the shop was closed, so he went into a nearby hookah lounge. That’s where Poland’s memory begins to fail, according to the investigator. He remembers seeing the clock in his truck show 8:36 p.m., but his next memory was waking up at a hospital with two police officers.

Prosecutors wrote in charging papers that Poland was a suspect in two other incidents that night where it was reported he waved a gun around in a bar and a hookah lounge, but he doesn’t appear to have been charged. Poland’s wife reported that he left home with $28, and when he was arrested, he had only $11 in cash, with no charges on his debit or credit card.

“I have never had a blackout in my life,” Poland said, according to the document. “I don’t know if the drink didn’t mix well that evening with my medications or what. I just don’t remember. Whatever happened, I made a mistake, and I am deeply sorry for it.”

Friends, family and former coworkers of Poland submitted 32 letters of support prior to sentencing, describing him as a loving father and hard worker. Several people knew him for coaching youth baseball in the 2010s. According to court records, he has a prior criminal conviction from 2000 in Kitsap County for negligent driving, a gross misdemeanor. All of his family stated Poland doesn’t drink and drive, the private investigator wrote in her report, and before this incident he was reportedly only a social drinker.

Poland’s attorney from Seattle-based Lewis & Laws, Jon Lewis, said the defendant has led a life of honesty and integrity, evidenced by his letters of support and the “remorse and abject shame” he now feels at every moment.

“He can only apologize for what he has done and ask for mercy from them as individuals and mercy from the court,” Lewis wrote.


(c) 2023 The News Tribune

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