Fact Check: Good Samaritan Facing Charges For Saving Child From Burning Car
Tequila Isaacson Will Never Be Charged For Taking A Fire Extinguisher
Snoqualmie Pass, WA – A Washington State Patrol Trooper’s statement that a good Samaritan could be charged after she worked to save a child from a burning car has news agencies reporting that she could be charged for the act.
However, the facts of the case, as reported, indicate that she would never be charged, and the Washington State Patrol isn’t pursuing the case.
The incident happened on Monday while Tequila Isaacson was driving home to Idaho from Washington, going over Snoqualmie Pass.
She pulled into a rest stop and a pickup pulling another vehicle drove in behind her. That truck then caught fire.
As the occupants of the vehicle worked to get a young boy out of the truck, Isaacson saw a fire extinguisher through a locked glass door at the rest stop’s coffee stand.
“I ran back around from where the glass door was and I pulled a post out of the bed of my truck and hit the door to get to the fire extinguisher,” Isaacson told KOMO News.
Isaacson used the fire extinguisher to put the fire out.
A Washington State Patrol trooper arrived and Isaacson says that he told her that she could be charged with burglary.
“He was telling me that using a fire extinguisher that doesn’t belong to me is theft and you’re not allowed to steal it, no matter how good your intentions,” she said.
No charges have been filed against Isaacson, nor will they be, because she didn’t commit a burglary.
There’s no need to question if Isaacson’s version of the story is correct. The Washington State Patrol is a highway patrol agency and it’s common for most troopers to go their entire career without handling a burglary investigation. Enforcement of crimes besides traffic or drug crimes is uncommon in WSP outside of specialized units.
I’m speculating here but I’d say that it’s likely that, through no fault of his own, this trooper was likely completely unfamiliar with criminal law surrounding burglaries.
First, the act of smashing the door could be the crime of malicious mischief, AKA vandalism. However, the state law requires that the actor have malicious intent, which Isaacson did not. Therefore, we can conclude that she did not commit the crime of malicious mischief.
Second, there’s the “theft” of the fire extinguisher. A theft would require that Isaacson had wrongfully obtained the fire extinguisher intent to deprive the owner of the fire extinguisher.
It would be tough to argue both the intent to deprive and “wrongfully obtained” as she obtained state’s fire extinguisher with the intent of putting out a fire (isn’t that what it’s there for?) and she then presumably returned it. Therefore, we can conclude that this was not a theft.
Burglary would have required that Isaacson enter the building unlawfully with intent to commit a crime. Since we determined that the taking of the fire extinguisher wasn’t a crime, Issacson didn’t have intent to commit a crime, and couldn’t be charged with burglary.
In the end, Isaacson did commit a crime of trespassing by unlawfully entering the building.
In order to be criminally charged for trespassing, the Washington State Patrol would need to investigate it as a criminal case and then forward the case to the prosecutor. A prosecutor would also likely require a statement from the Department of Transportation that Isaacson wasn’t authorized to enter the building. Then the prosecutor would have to believe that they could convince a jury to convict her, and decide that was something they actually wanted to pursue.
Conclusion: Isaacson will never be criminally charged. And according to KOMO news, the Washington State Patrol “will be reviewing the way this case was handled with the trooper, adding they are grateful for Isaacson’s courageous effort to help save the child.”