Pierce County prosecutors on Friday charged a 24-year-old man with rape and sexual assault in an attack that last year was believed to be connected to a series of robberies in which two men posing as police targeted fast food managers after they closed their restaurants.
Samuel Oscar Gonzalez of Lakewood pleaded not guilty Friday to three counts of first-degree rape, two counts of first-degree kidnapping, two counts of first-degree robbery and first-degree criminal impersonation. Superior Court Judge Brian Tollefson ordered him held in jail in lieu of $2 million bail.
Prosecutors noted in charging documents that police were investigating several other robberies that are similar to the Nov. 1 attack linked to Gonzalez.
Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum declined to comment on the charges Friday, noting that the investigation into the robbery spree was still being conducted.
Lakewood police Lt. Chris Lawler, noting that his agency was working with Tacoma police in investigating the robberies, also declined to comment because the investigation was continuing.
At the time, the Nov. 1 attack was the most violent in a string of armed robberies that local authorities believed were connected, based on the robbers’ descriptions and how the crimes were carried out.
The four robberies started in October and ended in November. Investigators said two armed robbers driving a car equipped with red and blue flashing lights targeted fast food restaurant managers after they’d closed their restaurants.
Law enforcement agencies offered rewards in the robberies and released surveillance images of the robbers. They warned fast food restaurant employees and others to be aware of their surroundings.
Charging papers gave this account of the Nov. 1 attack:
A woman and her boyfriend closed a Lakewood fast food restaurant and left in his car. As they drove on Interstate 5, he noticed a suspicious car behind them and pulled into a parking lot in the 1900 block of East 56th Street.
As the woman stepped out of the car, the other car pulled up. The occupants turned on red and blue lights on the car’s dash and used its public address system to order the woman back into her boyfriend’s car. The boyfriend was ordered to get out of the car with his hands up.
Two men stood on either side of their car and pointed guns at the boyfriend. They told him not to look at them and to walk backwards toward them. When he did, they locked him in the trunk of his car.
One robber took money from the woman’s purse, demanded the keys to her restaurant and sexually assaulted her. He then drove the boyfriend’s car to a nearby area, took the woman to a wooded area and sexually assaulted her again.
He ran away after threatening to kill the woman if she told anyone what had happened.
DNA PROFILE DEVELOPED
The woman got her boyfriend out of the trunk and went to Tacoma General Hospital for a sexual assault examination. DNA swabs were sent to a Texas lab for processing. The lab developed a DNA profile from the swabs and sent it to the Washington State Patrol crime lab.
Last month, the state crime lab matched the profile to Gonzalez. The match was made using evidence from a 2007 assault case involving Gonzalez. He was convicted in federal court after he ejaculated on a woman trying to sleep aboard a flight from Seattle to Minnesota.
When officers served a warrant on Gonzalez’s home Thursday, they found a blue baseball hat bearing the word “police ” and three pairs of underwear that matched those worn by the Nov. 1 attacker.