A former Hoquiam city councilman is accused of stealing several valuable tools, including some belonging to a longtime Tenino stonecutter who recently had $2,000 worth of tools taken from his property.
Aaron Shumate, 31, whose service on the Hoquiam City Council ended in 2011, is charged with second-degree burglary, possession of stolen property, trafficking in stolen property and possession of methamphetamine.
On March 28, a citizen reported seeing Shumate attempting to break through a locked gate at a private property in Westport to store his fifth-wheel trailer.
When Grays Harbor sheriff’s deputies arrived, they searched Shumate’s trailer and found multiple tools and equipment belonging to four victims, including a chain saw from a Chehalis resident and a generator, chain hoist, steel fork and saw from Tenino stonecutter Keith Phillips.
“We ended up doing a search warrant of his fifth wheel,” Detective Sgt. Brad Johansson said. “We found a chain saw from the city of Chehalis and some other things that we thought were probably stolen. One of those was a cut-off saw that we ended up tracing through the steel manufacturer and found it belonged to Mr. Phillips.”
Johansson said Shumate claimed the items were his, but it was later confirmed otherwise. Officers submitted a second search warrant to obtain the rest of the stolen property.
Between search warrants, Shumate bailed out of jail by paying $2,500 of his $25,000 bond.
Johansson said Shumate used Phillips’ generator to trade for the cost of impounding his trailer. Shumate was charged with trafficking in stolen property for that act, Johansson said.
“He was a city councilman in Hoquiam in 2011, and didn’t finish his term,” Johannson said.
As for Phillips, he is still missing 22 other items from the burglary at his place last month. “The truth is it was probably split up or traded off for drugs,” Johannson said.
Phillips said the loss of his tools has delayed three projects, including a project for the city of Tenino’s Olympia Street Plaza. Now work is back on track, he said.
“It took a good two and half weeks to get back into my routine.” Phillips said. “ Mentally, it was very disturbing for my wife and I. It was upsetting.”
Burglars reportedly used a bolt cutter to open an entrance gate, then stole the various tools and equipment. About three weeks before the burglary, the locks had been cut and there was evidence of footprints, Phillips said.
The Tenino Eagles hosted a fundraiser for Phillips, which netted about $6,000.
Phillips, who has lived in Tenino since 1998, said the community’s support is what has helped him move on from the burglary.
“The healing process and recovery started immediately with all the wonderful outpouring of thoughts and support I got from the community,” Phillips said. “It was a very heartwarming and humbling experience for me. It taught me that there is a lot more good people in this world than there are the ones that want to hurt you.”