News and Press Releases

Defendant with Lengthy Criminal History Used Gun to Threaten Neighbors

November 30, 2009

JOSEPH L. TORRES, 30, an enrolled member of the Lummi Indian Tribe in Northwest Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to three years in prison and four years of supervised release for Burglary. TORRES was arrested in December 2008, after he went to a home on the Lummi reservation and accused the residents of stealing a television from his family. TORRES took out a gun and pointed it at the people in the home – including a 9-year-old child. In fact, the television was not one taken from TORRES’ family. He was arrested by the Lummi tribal police after he left the home. Noting TORRES’ lengthy criminal history, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart told him, “You are reaching an age where you need to do better... or spend the rest of your life in jail.”

According to records filed in the case, on the afternoon of December 26, 2008, TORRES went to a home on the Lummi Reservation and accused the residents of stealing a TV from a family member. Residents at the home denied any knowledge of the alleged theft. After an evening involving alcohol and drugs, TORRES went back to the house and tried to take the TV at gunpoint. TORRES shoved one resident up against the wall and jammed the gun into his chest. When others came into the room, including a 9-year-old boy, TORRES pointed the gun at them. When TORRES left the house with the TV, the victims called 9-1-1. With the Lummi Tribal Police behind him, TORRES had a friend who was riding with him toss the loaded gun out the window. A check of serial numbers revealed that the television in question had not been stolen from TORRES’ family.

In court today Assistant United States Attorney Mary Dimke said TORRES’ criminal history indicates that he believes “the rules don’t apply to him.” She noted that TORRES has 24 convictions and seven arrests – many for domestic violence. “Torres’ past reflects a long history of criminal acts, and abusive and violent conduct. Torres has been a menace to Lummi Nation and Whatcom County law enforcement for the past 17 years, since he was 13 years old,” Ms. Dimke wrote in her sentencing memo.

TORRES was indicted on July 9, 2009, and pleaded guilty on August 25, 2009.

The case was investigated by the Lummi Police Department and the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mary K. Dimke.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.

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