Last fall, banks and restaurants in Thurston, Pierce and King counties were hit by a string of robberies — 15 in all.
Police believed that one person was responsible for all of the incidents, but more than three months went by before a suspect was identified and caught. Olympia police officials say that arrest wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of Detective Bryan Houser.
Lt. Paul Lower said Houser has been with the department for about 15 years and has always been a dedicated officer. The investigation that led to the arrest of robbery suspect Eric Collier was some of his best work, the lieutenant said.
“The amount of work he did in that particular case was just outstanding,” Lower said. “He really stuck with it and followed through.”
Houser’s success in investigating the robberies earned him the title of Officer of the Year, an honor presented each May. The recipient is chosen by other department employees.
Houser said he’s investigated robbery cases before, but none like this one. The robberies took place in several cities and counties, so investigating them required coordination between several jurisdictions.
“There were a lot of moving parts, and for a long time we didn’t have physical evidence,” Houser said. “So it felt really good to get it wrapped up.”
Collier is awaiting trial on several robbery charges.
This year, the Olympia Police Department also presented nine awards to 16 community members, officers and department employees.
Other recipients include Officer Bill Smith, who received the Bravery Medal. Lower said that in September, Smith entered a home after Rachel Patterson broke in and threatened a family with a bed rail.
Patterson was sentenced to six months in jail on burglary and assault charges.
Amy Stull, a senior program specialist who coordinates department volunteers and community outreach, received the Distinguished Service Award. She started at the department in 1999, working with volunteers, and moved to her current position in 2005.
Stull said she enjoys making the community safer by teaching Olympia residents how they can minimize their risk of becoming crime victims.
“It was a great honor to receive the award,” Stull said. “I work with a great group of people, and it’s nice to be recognized by them.”
The Olympia Police Department presents awards during National Police Week each May. Recipients were honored May 13 at a banquet at the Olympia Center.