Vancouver officer arrested after traffic stop, standoff

VANCOUVER, Wash. -- A Vancouver police detective has been arrested on suspicion of obstructing a law enforcement officer.

The situation began as a routine traffic stop in Washougal and led to a bizarre standoff with police at the detective’s home three nights later, Washougal authorities said.

Authorities said Jeremy Free, 40, was seen driving his car through a stop sign, and was pulled over by a Washougal police officer on Saturday evening.

The officer said he smelled a strong odor of alcohol on Free’s breath, and asked him to step out of the car. Free refused, leading to a confrontation with police. Free was later arrested at his home.

This isn’t the first time Free, a detective assigned to the missing person’s unit of the Vancouver Police Department, has raised eyebrows. Free made news in 2011 for his conduct during an undercover prostitution sting in which he exposed himself to a prostitute and touched the woman’s breasts. He was never disciplined for that incident.

Following the Saturday traffic stop, as officers asked Free to comply, Free continued to argue with the officer and refused to follow commands from other responding officers, according to a news release from the Washougal Police Department.

Free switched seats with a woman in the car. As officers attempted to issue Free a citation for obstructing a law enforcement officer and first-degree negligent driving, he refused and rolled up his window. A woman in car accepted the citation and they drove away, Washougal police said.

On Tuesday night, Washougal officers went to Free’s home to execute a search. Police said Free was seen in the home holding a semiautomatic pistol. Officers instructed Free to drop the gun but he refused.

A standoff ensued for 50 minutes before Free complied with officers and was ultimately taken into custody, Washougal police said. He was released from jail later that night.

It wasn’t immediately clear when Free would appear in court. The case was referred to the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office for review. A decision on charges hasn’t yet been made.

Free is on paid administrative leave from the Vancouver Police Department.

Free’s conduct during an undercover prostitution sting was detailed in a February 2011 article in The Columbian. Free posed as a john and met a prostitute at a Vancouver motel. During the trial of the accused prostitute, Free testified that he had exposed himself and touched the woman upon her request.

Vancouver police officials said at that time that Free wasn’t disciplined, though they planned to review the department’s policies when it came to conducting undercover prostitution stings.