Stolen handguns recovered at Chinook Middle School during suspect’s arrest

Chinook Middle School is at 4301 6th Ave. NE in Lacey.
Chinook Middle School is at 4301 6th Ave. NE in Lacey. North Thurston Public Schools

The suspect in a police pursuit that prompted Wednesday’s lockdown of Chinook Middle School in Lacey was in Thurston County Superior Court on Thursday.

He was held on suspicion of possession of a stolen firearm and unlawful possession of a firearm and bail was set at $50,000.

About 11:25 a.m. Wednesday, Thurston County Sheriff’s Office detectives had interviewed the suspect — identified as Tupu Taufetee, 19 — at South Sound High School as part of an investigation into a robbery case in which a person was injured March 6 by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg.

Detectives report the suspect and his friends had been driving around with stolen firearms and shooting the weapons out a vehicle’s window and sunroof, according to charging documents. Shell casings and live rounds were found on the Chehalis Western Trail near 26th Avenue Northeast, among other areas.

When the interview with detectives ended Wednesday, the suspect fled the high school on foot after a security staff member asked to check his backpack, according to charging documents. Detectives pursued the suspect at the Chinook Middle School campus, 4301 Sixth Ave. NE, which was placed on temporary lockdown.

School staff members saw the suspect throw something under a ramp leading to a portable classroom. Detectives found a Ruger .357-caliber revolver and a Beretta 9-mm semi-automatic handgun along with two loaded magazines, according to charging documents.

“It was a rather long lockdown but Chinook staff and students handled it really well, even though there were search dogs and police outside. We know something like this can be very scary. Kids text their parents from inside, while we are trying to find out from the school and police what is really going on. Keeping parents informed with accurate information in a timely manner during the social media age can be a huge challenge, but we do our best,” a district spokesperson said.

The guns are believed to be among four handguns stolen from a Lacey safe. According to charging documents, a Lacey police officer who responded to assist with the arrest Wednesday told detectives that the suspect admitted to throwing the stolen handguns from his backpack while running from law enforcement.