Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 30, to note that the islander who has been charged in the case is being detained at the Federal Detention Center in Tacoma. Watch for further updates.
A major police operation that took place on Maury Island early in the morning of Thursday, March 30, is linked to a federal grand jury indictment that charges an islander with crimes related to human trafficking.
The indictment, filed in federal court on March 27, was obtained after an inquiry to Emily Langlie, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The document charges Jesus Ruiz-Hernandez, a.k.a Christo Jesus Escobar Solares, with 10 separate federal counts, involving three adult victims, that allegedly took place between 2017 and 2021.
The charges included forced labor, involving serious harm or threats of harm to the victims; transporting and harboring undocumented persons for financial gain; and bringing undocumented persons into to the United States for financial gain.
The grand jury also alleged that in the case of one victim, the crime of forced labor included aggravated sexual assault.
The charges do not detail where the alleged crimes took place.
According to Langlie, Ruiz-Hernandez is now detained in the Federal Detention Center in Sea-Tac.
Islanders woke up to raid
The police operation took place in the early morning hours, involving personnel from Seattle Police, King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security, Washington State Patrol and Bellevue Police.
King County Medic One and Vashon Island Fire & Rescue also attended the operation.
According to KCSO spokesperson M. Corbett Ford, the county’s TAC-30 (SWAT) team assisted the Homeland Security operation. Ford said he was not able to provide any other information about the operation.
The police raid has been widely discussed on Vashon social media sites, with reports by witnesses and neighbors who reported seeing helicopter traffic and hearing concussive sounds, and observing a large police presence in the 6100 blocks of SW Point Robinson Road and SW 240th Street, as well as another nearby location on 244th Street.
A resident of the neighborhood, Siobhan McComb, said that the raid began at about 7 a.m. and that as of late Thursday morning, approximately six police vehicles were still parked at the location of a raid on 240th Street.
Another neighbor, who could not be reached for comment, said on social media that another nearby residence, on 244th Street, was also targeted.
According to McComb’s description of the police action, one of the locations raided was at 6113 SW 240th Street, a 9-acre property purchased by Jesus Geraldo Ruiz Hernandez in 2021, according to property records. The name listed on property records is nearly identical to the name of the person charged with federal crimes.
McComb described the property as fenced and gated and containing several outbuildings and dwellings. She said that she believed numerous people lived on the property, including children.
She said she had asked an official on the scene if the children were okay following the raid, and was told yes by that official, who gestured to an unmarked vehicle, indicating that the children had been taken out of the house and were in the vehicle.
Commuters at the North End ferry dock also observed a heavy law enforcement presence, which included several heavily armored vehicles, leaving the island around 8 a.m.
This is a developing story.