Police said one man was responsible for a “very unique” crime spree in Astoria, Oregon recently.
Jericho Labonte landed in jail after capsizing a stolen $160,000 yacht on Friday. He then gave first responders and hospital workers a fake name, according to police. His adopted alias briefly functioned to conceal his previous alleged crime: placing a dead fish on the front steps of the house seen in the cult-classic film The Goonies.
In the end, Labonte didn’t get away with any of the chicanery, but his series of odd decisions did earn him some notoriety. Astoria Police Chief Stacy Kelly described the rash of activity to The Oregonian as “very unique.”
Kelly told the outlet his department first became aware of Labonte’s activities in Astoria on Feb. 1. That day, the 35-year-old allegedly appeared on video while placing stickers over security cameras at the Hollywood-famous house, The Oregonian said.
Police then logged a phone call from a concerned citizen, who informed them Labonte had posted a video to Facebook that showed the fish. Footage shared by KGW News shows the moment the fish was deposited on the porch.
After receiving the tip, police learned authorities in Victoria, British Columbia, had previously issued five warrants for Labonte’s arrest. Alleged crimes included “harassment” and “mischief.”
Labonte’s Facebook account says he lives in Victoria — where a wanted bulletin states “he may post a risk to public safety. If you see Jericho Labonte, do not approach him and call 911.”
By the morning of Friday, Feb. 3, someone had swiped a pricey private yacht from the Astoria Port and was gunning it into rough seas at the mouth of the Columbia River. Coast Guard authorities told The Oregonian they were conducting a training exercise nearby when a frazzled mayday call came in over the radio.
The voice they heard allegedly belonged to Labonte.
A Coast Guard helicopter and several 47-foot rescue boats arrived about 40 minutes after Labonte’s call. There, they found a dire situation in heavy seas: the 35-foot yacht, the P/C Sandpiper, was taking on water amid 20-foot waves.
Video footage shows the boat capsizing just as a Coast Guard rescue swimmer reaches it. Swimmer John “Branch” Walton was new to the job, but he managed to get a sling around himself and Labonte as they both floated adrift.
Rescuers told The Oregonian the man’s initial reticence to give them personal details didn’t alarm them. They thought he registered as a relatively normal individual in distress. Sometimes people don’t provide their names right after traumatic events, they said.
“He was not very conversational, but he did go through a life-and-death experience,” a Coast Guard spokesperson said, adding that Labonte had thought he’d hit his head as the wave washed him overboard.
Shuttled to the hospital, Labonte allegedly continued to misreport his identity. According to police, Columbia Memorial Hospital staff treated him for hypothermia, then released him under the alias.
But a photo posted to the Coast Guard’s Twitter account soon led to his capture. In it, first responders carry a disheveled Labonte away from the rescue helicopter.
(3/4) As he entered the water the vessel capsized but the rescue swimmer was able to safely recover the individual. He was flown back to Coast Guard Base Astoria where EMS was waiting to evaluate and treat the man. pic.twitter.com/woJ72rkFz7
— USCGPacificNorthwest (@USCGPacificNW) February 3, 2023
Several residents who’d seen the Facebook video at the Goonies house recognized him as the man in the Coast Guard photo and contacted the Astoria police. Around the same time, Astoria Port Security Chief Matt Hansen contacted the department to say he’d watched the rescue video and recognized the yacht, which belonged to a man from Warrenton, Oregon. Hansen had spoken to the owner and confirmed it was stolen.
Police arrested Labonte at a short-term homeless center in the town of Seaside by 8 p.m. Friday — again using a fake name.
Authorities booked Labonte into the Clatsop County Jail, where he awaits a slew of potential charges. Theft and unauthorized use of the yacht, endangering the life of the rescue swimmer, and criminal mischief for his fishy activities at the “Goonies” are all charges on the table.
“I’ve been doing this (work) for over 22 years,” said Police Chief Kelly.“and this was definitely the most interesting 48 hours I’ve ever had.”