Redmond police’s Pro Act unit leads raid: Drugs, bunkers, gun range, arsenal and former Sonics player found in Kirkland home | Reporter investigation

It seems too far fetched for even an episode of "Breaking Bad." A drug operation 300 hundred feet away from an elementary school. Underground bunkers for growing marijuana and later a shooting range. "Johns" crawling through side windows to solicit prostitutes. And former Seattle Sonics basketball player Robert Swift.

It seems too far fetched for even an episode of “Breaking Bad.”

A drug operation 300 hundred feet away from an elementary school. Underground bunkers for growing marijuana and later a shooting range. “Johns” crawling through side windows to solicit prostitutes. And former Seattle Sonics basketball player Robert Swift.

Yet that is what the Redmond police Pro Act Unit and Kirkland and Bellevue police found after they raided a Juanita home on the same street as Helen Keller Elementary, where they discovered a small arsenal of weapons and drugs following months of neighborhood complaints. Bellevue police’s bomb squad and Bothell police were also on site. The Reporter obtained the information in an investigation by obtaining hundreds of police and court documents through public records requests.

The owner, Trygve Lief Bjorkstam, 54, has been charged by the King County Prosecutor’s Office with buying, manufacturing and selling methamphetamine and heroin out of his home on the 14000 block of 108th Avenue Northeast. His bail has been set at $60,000 and he pleaded not guilty at Wednesday’s hearing; he has a case-setting hearing scheduled for Nov. 5.

During the Oct. 4 raid, police found drug paraphernalia strewn inside of the house, as well as 26 firearms that included AK-47s, pistols and a sawed-off shotgun, according to police records.

They also discovered an entrance to a bunker located underneath his house inside his bedroom. Initially designed to be a marijuana grow operation, Bjorkstam admitted he has used it as a shooting range, the records continue. Upon further inspection, police determined that the guns had been fired while aimed at a neighbor’s house across the street.

The Redmond Pro Act Unit first began investigating the residence in August after receiving information from people claiming narcotics were being sold there, in addition to stolen property. Surveillance on the house for several months showed people enter the house for short periods of time and then leave, which they concluded was consistent with distribution of drugs.

A confidential police informant later made two purchases from Bjorkstam, noting his habit of carrying at least one firearm on his person at all times, which Bjorkstam claimed was intended to deter any potential robbers, according to court documents.

After collecting the necessary evidence for a search warrant, the Redmond police carried out the raid on Oct. 4, a Saturday, when activity at the elementary school and nearby daycare centers would be minimal and lower the risk of danger to children.

“We understood the sensitivity to the community based on the location of the school and the daycares close by, and we got our search warrant as soon as we had enough information for that,” said Redmond Lt. Martin Fuller.

The Redmond Pro Act Unit performed additional surveillance starting at 4 a.m. on Oct. 4 and then served the search warrant at 6 a.m., according to Redmond officer Matt McAdam.

After the raid was carried out, Bjorkstam was arrested inside. He was read his Constitutional rights and then waived them, giving the police the combination to his safe. Among the drug paraphernalia allegedly found in the home included a frying pan with heroin, baggies containing crystal meth, capped and uncapped needles and pieces of used aluminum foil, the documents continue.

Bjorkstam’s truck was impounded pending a search warrant after a K9 unit gave a positive alert to the presence or odor of drugs. Police found a drug ledger inside the truck, plus more used aluminum foil and two pen tubes with burn marks and residue, the documents continue.

During a later interview, Bjorkstam allegedly confessed to selling meth and heroin from his home. When police remarked about its close proximity to the elementary school, he replied “I know, that’s not good, is it?”

Bjorkstam also claimed he was not “a big time drug dealer” and was dealing meth and heroin to pay his bills and support his own drug habits, police records state.

Also detained during the raid was Seattle Sonics former NBA center Robert Swift, 28, according to Kirkland police. He was not arrested or charged with any crime pertaining to the raid.

Fuller said the two men cooperated with police and there were no problems during the raid.

For neighbors, there is both a sense of relief and disquiet. While they are pleased to see a drug operation shut down, the fact that it was going on in the first place has left many of them alarmed.

Fuller noted that neighbors came out of their homes, approached the members of the police agencies and thanked them for getting the job done.

“It’s been going on for awhile and they were having to live next to it,” McAdam said.

“That kind of activity makes me sick,” Mike Ludwig said, who lives down the street from the house with his wife. Seventh-Day Adventists, they were about to head out to church that morning when they heard the noise coming from outside. Ludwig said he initially thought they were ambulances, until they saw the bomb squad and heard a bullhorn telling the occupants of the home to come out. Grabbing their video camera, they recorded the raid from their house. Though Ludwig said they did not personally notice any suspicious activity, others did.

“It’s a little disconcerting,” he said. “It’s not a bad neighborhood.”

Despite the alleged drug deals, a neighbor who knew Bjorkstam personally described him as respectful and never threatening, but struggling to find permanent employment after he lost his job at Boeing in 1992, eventually drifting into alcoholism and drugs. Boeing has confirmed the man worked an engineer with the company. He purchased the Kirkland house in 1997, according to King County property tax records.

Neighbors also claimed some of the tenants Bjorkstam rented rooms out to worked as prostitutes and had their “John’s” climb in through one of the windows on the side of the house, albeit it was not known whether Bjorkstam was aware of the activity.

Kathryn Reith, communications director for the Lake Washington School District, said that while the district is pleased that the drug dealing has been stopped, they received no indication from police that the activity posed a direct threat to the students at the elementary school.

“It was a good thing it was a neighborhood where people were reporting things like that,” she said. “We are grateful to the neighbors for keeping an eye out.”

A 20 mph school-zone sign stands in front of the Juanita home.

Despite no criminal convictions, Bjorkstam’s address has been the site of more than 40 police incidents in the past five years since they took over from the King County Sheriff’s Office following the 2011 annexation of Juanita, according to the documents. Most of these incidents took place during the last year.

The incidents ranged from domestic violence disputes with his 45-year-old girlfriend, to tenants who either had outstanding warrants or whom Bjorkstam fought with over rental agreements. It was during these repeated calls that police learned about the cameras installed on his property, the firearms he possessed and the alleged drug activity. The documents also reveal neighbors had repeatedly called the police to report suspicious drug activity.

Kirkland Police Department spokesperson Mike Murray said they turned the investigation over to Redmond police’s Pro Act Unit when they suspected drug deals were being carried out at the home. The Kirkland police Pro Act Unit was eliminated several years ago due to budget cuts, according to Murray.

Redmond’s Pro Act Unit, which consisted of five members of the Redmond police force along with three of its detectives on Oct. 4, has been in existence for about nine years and began when there was a rash of automobile thefts in King County.

“This is an example of one of the many cases that we have the ability to work,” McAdam said.

The Pro Act Unit conducts investigations with crimes related to auto theft, car prowl, burglary, identity theft, property and low-level drugs. Pro Act works collaborative investigations with nearby agencies and regional partners, including the Eastside Narcotics Task Force.

In 2012, police responded to a domestic violence call at the house and arrested Bjorkstam’s girlfriend after she allegedly hit him in front of his then 18-year-old son. In March of this year, police responded to another domestic incident involving Bjorkstam and a tenant regarding their rental agreement after she refused to let him rent out one of the rooms for which she was already paying rent. He allegedly tried to kick down the door to her bedroom, but ultimately no one was arrested. In August, police arrested a 21-year-old woman renting a room in Bjorkstam’s home on an outstanding warrant. Five days prior, they had arrested a 35-year-old man for an outstanding warrant for theft after being seen on Bjorkstam’s property, according to police documents. A month later, police arrested a 27-year-old man at the residence for an outstanding warrant out of King County.

Two days before the SWAT raid took place, Kirkland police responded to a domestic situation at the residence involving a 29-year-old woman and a 28-year-old man arguing in the driveway. The woman claimed the man owned her money, hitting him with a stuffed monkey while yelling at him.

Murray stated that Bjorkstam was never arrested prior to the raid because none of the previous incidents provided sufficient evidence and no one was willing to testify against him.

Some of the police incidents also involved Swift, including one that took place a day after the SWAT raid. According to Murray, he is still living in the home. Swift was evicted from his Sammamish home in 2013 after it was foreclosed.

Ironically, the new owners of his Sammamish home also discovered a makeshift shooting range in the basement storage area.

Reporter editors Andy Nystrom and Matt Phelps also contributed to this report.