Two Seattle men charged in Kitsap crime spree

POULSBO — Two grocery store employees chased down two alleged liquor thieves leading to their arrest on March 1, in the wake of a Kitsap crime spree that involved nearly $2,800 in stolen liquor and burglary.

The pair are also suspected in an auto theft from across the Puget Sound.

Two suspects arrested

Washington State Patrol troopers pulled over an Audi just south of Port Orchard off of State Route 3 near Mullenix Road at noon on March 1, after receiving reports of an erratically driven vehicle.

The stop resulted in the arrest of Nicholas Joseph Diaz and Gurjit Alexander Johal. They were reportedly found in possession of two other men’s drivers licenses, bank cards, receipts for purchases using those bank cards, $1,663 in cash, and more in relation to suspected thefts in the region, according to arrest documents.

Diaz, 31, and Johal, 21, of Seattle have been charged in Kitsap County District Court with two counts of second degree possession of stolen property and possession of a stolen vehicle.

Johal was allegedly driving the Audi at the time of the traffic stop. He initially refused to speak with troopers, or make eye contact, after being pulled over and questioned about the stolen items.

“I’d rather talk to an attorney,” he told troopers according to a Washington State Patrol report on the incident. “I don’t want to be a snitch because that’s worse than what you guys can do to me. You guys can’t shoot me in the head for telling.”

Tukwila to Kitsap

Diaz and Johal’s alleged spree began in Tukwila around 1:45 p.m., Feb. 24, when an Audi was reported stolen from the parking lot of a fitness club. Its owner had locked his keys and other belongings in a locker at the club, but returned to find the lock missing along with his car keys. The car was also missing and the owner called 911.

The car wasn’t seen again until March 1 in Kitsap County.

Liquor thefts

A liquor theft was reported at the Kingston Albertsons at approximately 6 a.m. A blue and white cooler and a 12-pack of toilet paper was used to conceal $878 worth of liquor that was stolen from the grocery store. Troopers found the cooler, liquor and the package of toilet paper in the Audi Johal was driving.

The theft was captured on security footage and shows two men entering the store at 6 a.m. and stealing the liquor. The footage also shows the two men getting into an Audi and leaving the area. The two men from the footage match booking photos of Diaz and Johal that were taken later that day.

It wasn’t the only Albertsons to suffer a loss in the region. The Poulsbo Albertsons reported a liquor theft around 6:49 a.m., shortly after the Kingston theft. Poulsbo police responded to the call and reviewed surveillance footage of the crime. A witness reported that one man broke a lock on a cage where more expensive liquor is sold within the store. The man then filled two hand baskets full of bottles and quickly left the store. The security footage shows the man leaving the store and taking the liquor to a car that matches the stolen Audi’s description.

The Poulsbo theft took approximately 10 minutes. A total of $1949.05 worth of liquor was stolen.

But the two thefts are only half of the story. After the crime at the Kingston Albertsons, two of its employees got in their car and spent the morning searching the area for the Audi. They were unsuccessful.

One of the employees, a grocery manager, related the incident to his girlfriend over the phone.

“When returning to the store I called my girlfriend to see how her day was and told her how mine was going and about the theft and how bizarre I thought it was that these guys stealing from us had such a nice car,” the manager wrote in a follow-up email to sheriff’s office investigators.

The girlfriend, in turn, told her mother about the theft. The mother proved to be a pivotal link in the search.

The mother spotted the Audi near a car wash in Poulsbo. She quickly called the grocery manager and told him where the suspected car was headed.

The chase was on. The manager quickly caught up with the Audi at Highway 305 and Bond Road in Poulsbo. He followed the suspects as they drove onto Highway 3 and headed south.

The manager told investigators how he pursued the suspects, keeping a safe distance so the alleged thieves would not know they were being tailed.

The Audi exited Highway 305 in Silverdale and pulled over to the side of the road near the Kitsap Mall. The Audi then hurried back onto Highway 3 south, speeding up to 85 mph as it weaved through traffic lanes, dodging other cars.

“The vehicle started speeding and I believe the driver was now on to us following them,” the manager wrote in his email. “I then dialed 911 and reported what was going on.”

State troopers joined the pursuit and pulled over the Audi in Port Orchard.

Bainbridge connection

Johal and Diaz are also suspects in a theft on Bainbridge Island, according to the Washington State Patrol report. The case is under investigation by Bainbridge Island detectives.

A Bainbridge fitness club was burglarized on March 1. Two club members reported that their drivers licenses, bank cards and nearly $1,600 in cash were stolen from their lockers. The stolen Audi matches the description of the suspects’ car in the island burglary case.

The names of the island victims match the names on the licenses and bank cards reportedly found in the possession of Diaz and Johal.

Troopers also reportedly found receipts, dated March 1, in the pair’s possession. Visa gift cards were also discovered. A 46-inch Samsung TV and an Xbox, and other small items were found in the Audi at the time of Johal and Diaz’s arrest. The items purchased with the stolen bank cards match the receipts.

Diaz allegedly claimed possession of a backpack in the Audi after his arrest. Inside, troopers found a scale, two unused syringes, and a ledger book with email addresses written inside.

After Diaz and Johal were booked into Kitsap County Jail, two small baggies allegedly fell out of Johal’s shoe. The contents of the small bags were tested, and proved to contain methamphetamine and heroin.

A third man

An investigator with the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office spoke with Diaz while he was in Kitsap County Jail around 5:42 p.m., March 1. Diaz allegedly admitted to going into the Kingston Albertsons, but said that he did not go into any other stores that day. Diaz said Johal had nothing to do with the theft and stayed in the car, according to a sheriff’s report. Diaz said a third man assisted with the Kingston liquor theft, but he would not provide a name, according to the report.

Diaz allegedly revealed that he and the third man sold the stolen bottles to a retailer.

Diaz allegedly said he also sells stolen liquor to bars and liquor stores in Seattle.

Diaz said he has a heroin addiction, according to the report, and that he committed the thefts in order to help his mom cover the mortgage on her home.

Diaz denied stealing the Audi from the fitness club in Tukwila, according to the report, but said that he might be seen on the club’s security footage.

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