Vancouver man gets 4 years in Minnehaha car theft, hit-run Updated 6 hours ago

Vehicle's owner suffered brain injury in August incident

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter Published: January 18, 2023, 6:46pm Updated: January 19, 2023, 1:11pm

A Vancouver man was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison for stealing a car and running over the owner in August in Minnehaha. Ttong John, 30, pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court to first-degree robbery and hit-and-run. He also pleaded guilty to taking a motor vehicle without permission in a 2021 case. Senior Deputy Prosecutor Dan Gasperino said John was out of custody and failed to appear in court for the pending 2021 case when he stole the car belonging to Joseph W. Lutz. John was also on release at the time, pending charges in Portland for stealing a car there. Gasperino said Lutz, 30, suffered a traumatic brain injury in the hit-and-run and required emergency surgery. The prosecutor said Lutz recently graduated from using a walker to a cane and completed speech therapy. He also said Lutz will likely no longer be able to drive due to problems with his peripheral vision, and he will likely need to be on medication for the rest of his life. Judge Jennifer Snider sentenced John above the agreed-upon recommendation of 40 months, due to the lifetime impact his actions had on Lutz; she noted the men are the same age.

“It’s common knowledge that I typically follow recommendations, unless something really strikes me,” Snider said. “This is one that strikes me.” John declined to address the court before sentencing. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Vancouver Fire Department and AMR responded at 7:48 a.m. Aug. 16 to 4606 N.E. 40th Ave. for reports of a hit-and-run involving a pedestrian. AMR personnel arrived to find Lutz lying in the street, vomiting and bleeding from the head, according to a probable cause affidavit. Detectives learned Lutz had left his Toyota Camry running in the driveway and gone back inside to finish getting ready for work. Lutz’s grandmother, whom he lives with, said when Lutz walked back toward the front door, he suddenly took off running to the driveway, court records state. She said she saw the Camry backing out of the driveway and into the street. Lutz continued to run toward the car, she said, but she lost sight of him. Then, she heard a commotion and found Lutz injured in the street, according to the affidavit. A few days later, detectives received a phone call from a woman in Kent. She said a man approached her in the parking lot of a hardware store and offered to trade the Camry he was driving for her car. She said he also offered to sell her the Camry for $200. Because of his odd behavior, she said she took a photo of the license plate, which matched Lutz’s stolen Camry, according to court records.

The next day, Auburn police found the stolen Camry, and the driver was identified as John. Detectives said John admitted to stealing Lutz’s Camry after he noticed it running in the driveway while walking by. They said John told them he saw Lutz running toward the car, but he accelerated and Lutz “ran into the car.” He said he didn’t look back and kept driving, the affidavit states. Lutz’s family created a GoFundMe to help with his medical costs, which can be found at gofund.me/4bfb5f89.

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