A 29-year-old Clallam County employee stopped thieves from taking a signpost at the intersection of Kitchen-Dick Lane and Woodcock Road.
At 10:45 p.m. Tuesday, July 21, he came across an older pickup truck with a white stripe and the signpost in the truck's bed.
Approaching the thieves, the employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the driver and one or more accomplices that it was his job to replace the signs after they were stolen.
He tried to convince them that what they were doing was wrong.
"I see a lot of vandalism with my job and this is public property and taxpayers' dollars," he said.
They bragged to him about stealing the sign, but he proceeded to take the signpost out of their truck.
One thief, described as a slender Caucasian male in his early 20s with short blond hair, wearing khaki pants and a white shirt, stepped out of the truck and began to hit him repeatedly in the face.
He was able to dial 9-1-1 before blacking out.
At Olympic Medical Center, he was diagnosed with a concussion.
Clallam County Undersheriff Ron Peregrin said the sheriff's office looked for the vehicle but did not find the thieves.
Peregrin said stealing signs is not common in the county and it's especially unusual for thieves to steal the post as well.
"They are taken by younger people who think it's cool to have them hanging in their bedroom," he said.
"The sign may have their last name or some meaning to them specifically."
The county worker does not recall much between encountering the thieves and waking up in the hospital.
He recalls attempting to write down the truck's license plate number but not if he tried to fight back.
The worker has been given doctor's orders to take time off from work.
"It's ridiculous to beat someone up over a street sign," he said.
"I hope someone turns these guys in."
Peregrin said it is fairly rare to catch someone in the act of stealing signs.
Signs are found following another crime, sometimes when officers search a home with a warrant or after making a traffic stop and finding them in the back seat or truck's bed.
Stealing signs is a misdemeanor crime.
Missing stop signs create the most danger and concern, Peregrin said.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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