Tacoma and Kirkland police authorities arrested last week a man suspected of child rape in Pierce County at the Tent City 4 camp currently located at St. John Vianney Church on 84th Avenue Northeast on Kirkland's Finn Hill.
“It was a Tacoma Police Department case,” said Kirkland police spokesman Lt. Mike Murray. “They came up and provided us with information that a suspect was here. Our detectives located him and arrested him.”
The arrest was made last Wednesday, Nov. 7.
Murray said the man is not a registered sex offender, but rather a suspect in a rape in Tacoma. Tent City is an encampment of homeless people that rotates among various churches in Eastside cities every three months. St. John Vianney is currently hosting the camp, as it has five times since 2004.
Charging documents filed by the Pierce County Prosecutor's office on Nov. 8 identify the suspect as Robert Bruce McKay-Erskine, 35. He is charged with three counts of aggravated first-degree child rape and one count of child molestation.
The church sent a letter to nearby residents about the arrest, saying the suspect had been subject to a screening process and that the church has taken steps with Tent City staff to implement a system of weekly checks for sex offenders. In the past, Tent City managers have said all residents are subject to background checks and that registered sex offenders are not allowed to live in the camp, nor anyone with an outstanding warrant.
KPD’s Lt. Murray said Tent City has been located at various Kirkland churches many times and that its residents typically pose few problems.
“We’ve arrested probably four or five car prowlers recently, and none of them were related to Tent City,” Murray said. “Tent City is almost a non-issue for us. We have very few problems.”
Here is the entire letter to neighbors from St. John Vianney Church:
November 8, 2012
Dear Neighbors and Friends of St. John Vianney Parish,
I am writing to notify you of an arrest that occurred at Tent City, which is being hosted by St. John Vianney parish. On the evening of Nov. 7 an individual was arrested by Pierce County law enforcement for charges of child rape that allegedly occurred in Pierce County. He is now being held without bail in the Pierce County Jail.
I want to assure you that the accused, like all residents, was subjected to a thorough background and a sexual offender check prior to being granted residence at Tent City. The background checks came up clear. The criminal charges in this case were filed on Oct. 26, nearly two weeks after the individual became a Tent City resident.
The morning after the incident, parish staff met with Tent City staff and have taken steps to implement a system of random weekly sexual offender checks for residents to assure the safety and security of our neighbors, parishioners and ail who use our parish facilities.
St. John Vianney Parish has hosted Tent City for 3-month stays five times since 2004 Without incident.
TC4 arrived here on October 13 and will be moving January 12.
We are committed to providing a humane housing alternative for homeless individuals while making safety for the community we serve our highest priority. Although this alleged criminal behavior did not occur at Tent City, or anywhere in the Kirkland community, we take it very seriously and will continue to review our guidelines and procedures to assure that safety-remains our first priority.
If you have any questions or concerns, please Contact Margie at (425) 823-0787.
Fr. Ramon Santa Cruz, Pastor
St. John John Vianney Parish