PORT ANGELES — State Fish and Wildlife Department agents will take their first steps this week to clear out a homeless encampment where a fugitive was collared July 11.
Capt. Dan Chadwick said Friday that department agents backed by Clallam County Sheriff’s deputies will enter Fish and Wildlife property this week adjacent to the busy Morse Creek curve on U.S. Highway 101 handing out 10-day notices for people to vacate the land.
The wooded public parcel is where Toka John Lavacca, 40, was arrested July 11, about a mile east of East Myrtle Street, where two days earlier he allegedly pointed a gun at two homeowners.
Chadwick said the sweep is planned for this week on a date that had not been set as of Friday.
“Since the arrest and activity there, we are trying to take some action and get this taken care of,” he said.
Lavacca was charged Tuesday with two counts each of assault with a deadly weapon and harassment-threats to kill, and one count of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.
At about 5 p.m. July 9, he allegedly pointed a handgun, which has not been recovered, first at a man who asked Lavacca what he was doing outside the man’s house and then at the man’s wife, who drove up after the confrontation began.
Lavacca fled on foot, the homeowners said.
He was apprehended — after authorities sought and received the public’s help — at a homeless encampment where more than a half-dozen people were staying in tents and had built campsites, Sheriff’s Sgt. John Keegan said in an earlier interview.
Chadwick said Fish and Wildlife found out in late winter or earlier this spring about the encampment where Lavacca was arrested.
“We’ve known about various camping on our property all around our region,” he said, calling enforcement against the practice a lower priority until recent events.
Chadwick said people who have been staying on the parcel are violating the state Administrative Code related to any Fish and Wildlife land and could receive a citation but won’t be arrested for the non-jailable offense (https://tinyurl.com/PDN-HomelessCamp).
People staying at the parcel are not simply camping Chadwick said.
“This is residing on our property.”
The law makes it illegal to establish a camp on Fish and Wildlife land for more than 21 days within a 30-day period unless allowed by a posted notice.
A “residence camp” is illegal.
“A residence camp is an encampment, occupancy or presence on department lands that is the principal place of residence for the person or occupant,” according to the state Code.
A residence camp is a “public nuisance” and can be “abated” by Fish and Wildlife after 10 days notice, according to the code.
“After 10 days and they don’t disperse, we will go in there and clean it up,” Chadwick said.
“We are aware of their situation that they have no place to go.
“We’ll try to work with them the best that we can.
“My hope is that they heed our advice and find a new place to live.”
Lavacca, whom authorities said was staying at homes in the East Myrtle Street area before the gun-pointing incident, remained in the county jail Friday on $150,000 bail.
Lavacca pleaded not guilty to the five charges Tuesday in Superior Court.
A status hearing is set for Aug. 9 and a three-four-day trial set for Aug. 26.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].