String of Arrests Continues for Chehalis Man With Police Lights on Truck

By Natalie Johnson /

The list of charges has grown for a Chehalis man contacted by police half a dozen times in the past two weeks on topics such as disorderly conduct, possession of drugs, eluding police and harassing people with police lights mounted on his truck.

James P. Sauter, 54, was charged Friday in Lewis County Superior Court with attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle. It was his second felony charge in Lewis County this week. 

On Monday, he was charged with possession of a controlled substance. He was released that day on unsecured bail. 

Superior Court Judge Joely O’Rourke granted a request from the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office to hold Sauter on $10,000 bail for the newer charge, and revoke his conditions of release on Monday’s drug charge, essentially holding him without bail. 

O’Rourke said she would consider allowing Sauter to be released on bail after he meets with a mental health professional. 

Both Sauter’s attorney for the day, Rachael Tiller, and Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead noted their concerns about Sauter’s mental health to the judge Friday. 

“The family has a lot of concerns for him,” Halstead said. 

O’Rourke initially ruled, as did Judge James Lawler on Monday, that Sauter does not qualify for a court-appointed attorney based on his financial situation. 

However, she later agreed to assign court-appointed counsel after both Tiller and Halstead requested it, raising concerns that he would be unable to undertake the task himself. 

“I think the court can appoint a public defender and order him to pay for his costs,” Halstead said. “That would be the state’s request, because I think that would speed things up.”

O’Rourke also ordered Sauter to undergo a mental health evaluation at the jail. 

Sauter was subdued during Friday’s hearing. When asked if he understood the charge against him said, “It sounds … pretty serious.”

According to court documents, Washington State Patrol troopers responded at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday to a report of a possible hit and run on U.S. Highway 12. The suspect vehicle was described as a white Dodge truck with red and blue emergency lights mounted in its grill. 

The 911 caller reported the truck was being driven at a high rate of speed, forcing other vehicles off the road. 

Troopers located a truck matching the description near milepost 96 of U.S. Highway 12. The truck was traveling eastbound in excess of 100 miles per hour, passing vehicles, and had flashing red and blue lights in the grill, according to court documents. 

Troopers attempted to pursue and stop the truck, which reportedly continued passing vehicles in “no-passing zones and around blind corners,” according to court documents. Troopers stopped the pursuit at milepost 101 due to safety concerns. 

They continued to follow the truck despite terminating the high-speed chase, and reportedly lost track of it. Later, the troopers received reports that a truck matching the description was at milepost 142 with another vehicle pulled over to the shoulder. 

Troopers drove to the area, and the driver, identified as Sauter, reportedly sped off and reactivated the red and blue lights on his truck. 

Troopers and deputies from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office continued to follow Sauter through Packwood and to White Pass. The truck went into a field and got stuck on a log. 

Sauter was arrested with a can of pepper spray in his pocket and a silver badge pinned to a vest. The badge was a Centralia Fire Department badge, according to court documents. 

Sauter was last arrested Sunday in Chehalis on suspicion of disorderly conduct after police received a report that he was shaking a vehicle with a woman inside it. He was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance. 

Earlier that morning Centralia police officers issued a court summons to Sauter in the 200 block of West Reynolds Avenue on suspicion of unlawful discharge of a laser for allegedly aiming a laser at passing motorists. 

Before that, he was arrested May 15 in Chehalis. According to the Chehalis Police Department, dispatchers received several reports, starting at about 6:30 p.m. that day, of a disorderly man threatening customers at a Chehalis business. Police received a report of what they believed to be the same suspect harassing people at at least three other locations in the area. Sauter was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in the 1400 block of Northwest Louisiana Avenue. 

A few days earlier, on May 12, Chehalis police responded at about 3:40 p.m. to a report of harassment in the 1200 block of Bishop Road. 

A woman reported a man in a large truck was revving his engine, then activated red and blue lights in the grill of the truck.

Halstead noted Sauter’s family members told him they knew Sauter had installed the lights on his truck, but didn’t know why.

“Given the new facts of the case, we kind of see what’s going on,” Halstead said. 

The man, identified as Sauter, reportedly made derogatory comments and threatened the woman, according to the police report, obtained by The Chronicle.

Sauter reportedly did not verbally identify himself as a police officer, according to the report. Law enforcement officers issued Sauter a warning, but he was not arrested. 

He also has a pending case from April, in which he was charged fourth-degree assaul