Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Centralia logger killed near Oakville leaves behind close-knit crew

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
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Erin L. VanBrocklin doing a “super hero” pose out in the woods in an undated photo.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Erin L. VanBrocklin grew up in Bellingham.

“He’s always worked, he’s always been in the logging industry,” his younger sister said.

He was in his late 20s, or maybe early 30s, when he moved away from his family and down to Centralia to start a new life for himself, she said.

He was locked up for about six years, after he robbed or tried to rob a man in Rochester, until his release two years ago in February, Tori Banek said.

“He had an addiction, but he got cleaned up in prison,” Banek said. “And we learned so much about him in the week before his funeral.”

VanBrocklin, 41, was killed in a logging accident outside Oakville earlier this month. His funeral was held in Chehalis last Saturday.

Banek, a middle school teacher who lives in northeast Oregon, said she came to learn that her brother was very close to the three crew members who tried to save his life.

“These men lived with Erin,” she said. “They called him dad, and Erin called these three men his kids, because Erin mentored them.”

One of them told her they met in prison, when VanBrocklin gave him a cup of coffee – something unexpected from fellow inmates – and told him, that if he wanted to change his life, he would give him a place to live and a job, she said.

“Erin made him want to change, something his parents couldn’t do for him,” Banek said.

Banek so cherishes a text message sent to her by the co-worker nicknamed Spider, that spoke of how inspiring her brother was, that a longtime drug dealer who thought he would return to that life, decided not to.

VanBrocklin was the second in a line of six children, a large family that is so grateful to the logging company owners who were willing to give him a second chance.

His family has now recently gotten to know how loved he was by his crew, his pastor and many others in the Centralia area, his sister said.

“That gave us so much peace,” she said. “Because his life wasn’t always on the straight and narrow.”

VanBrocklin was working with a B and M Logging crew the morning of January 10. He was bucking a log. Others were rigging up a yarder, according to the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office

A log that broke loose and rolled down the hill crushed him.

His fellow workers had to cut him out, and they placed him a stretcher and drove six miles to where they met an ambulance. Medics tried to save him but he was pronounced dead.

“Erin’s crew was one of the top crews in the company,” Banek said. “They were all the underdogs, and these three men were with him.”

Another funeral will be held next month in Bellingham, on his birthday which is Feb. 14.
•••

For background, read “Centralia resident dies in logging accident in Grays Harbor County” from Tuesday January 13, 2015, here

Suspected Chase Bank robber believed to have numerous similar convictions

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – He may have used a bicycle for a getaway vehicle but the man arrested yesterday may have quite a bit of experience holding up banks.

Prosecutors say it appears Larry G. Bailey has three, maybe four, federal convictions for bank robbery, going all the way back to 1988 in Washington and Kansas.

Bailey, 52, is accused of being the man who walked into Chase Bank in Chehalis yesterday, implied to the manager he had a gun as he reached into his coat pocket and got into the bank’s vault where he was handed $36,000 to $40,000 cash.

Bailey was apprehended about 45 minutes later less than a mile from the bank, leaving his BMX-style bicycle and scaling one fence and nearly a second one ending up on the shoulder of Interstate 5 at the West Street overpass.

Police say Bailey just arrived in the area few months ago, and shows an address on the 1500 block of Bishop Road.

His federal probation officer informed prosecutors they would be placing a detainer on him, as he is in violation of his probation, according to court documents.

He was charged in Lewis County Superior Court today with first-degree robbery and possession of methamphetamine.

Prosecutors planned to ask a judge to hold Bailey on $1 million bail, given no apparent ties to the community and his history.

But he refused to be brought up from the jail.

A corrections officer told the judge this afternoon that Bailey was suicidal and not agreeing to talk to anyone.

Judge Nelson Hunt said he didn’t like to do it, but Bailey would have to be forced to come to the court room tomorrow afternoon.

“Tomorrow, if he won’t come up, we’ll need to have him brought up in the chair,” Hunt said.

The chair, according to both lawyers in the courtroom, is something they haven’t themselves seen used in Lewis County, but is something a defendant can be restrained in and moved in.

According to charging documents, Bailey made no secret of his past.

After his arrest, he was taken to see a doctor for injuries prior to being booked.

Firefighters said he hurt his forehead when he crashed his bicycle. Charging documents mention he ran through barbed wire while trying to evade authorities.

While being treated, Bailey told officers this was his fourth strike, although one of them was before the new law took effect, but he knew he would be going away forever, charging documents state.

He talked about how he had done time in prison, and how this was the first time he’d gotten a teller to take him inside the vault, the documents state.

“Bailey spoke about methamphetamine and how it was the devil,” the documents state.

More to come.
•••

Meanwhile, for background, read “Thirty-six thousand dollars retrieved from accused bicycle bandit after robbery” from Tuesday January 27, 2015 at 10:40 p.m., here

Thirty-six thousand dollars retrieved from accused bicycle bandit after robbery

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The man arrested following yesterday’s bank robbery in Chehalis is a 52-year-old who just arrived in the area a few months ago.

Police recovered $36,000 cash when they arrested Larry G. Bailey, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

The BMX-style bicycle he was riding and wrecked shortly before he was apprehended less than a mile from the bank has been taken into police evidence. As has the pinkish-purple floral print cloth bag he apparently brought with him to put the money in, according to police.

Bailey has a Chehalis adress.

Police swarmed toward Chase Bank yesterday morning after a 10:45 a.m. call that the business on South Market Boulevard near Seventh Street was robbed. A dog track was conducted. Three nearby schools were alerted for lockdown.

Nobody at the bank was injured, but the man forced an employee to take him into the bank’s vault, police said.

Chehalis Police Department spokesperson Linda Bailey, no relation to the suspect, said he implied he had a gun, but no gun has been located.

The suspect was discovered within the hour, traveling on a bicycle crossing the West Street bridge overpass.

The floral bag with the money was inside a backpack, Bailey said. Also discovered among his belongings was a suspected methamphetamine pipe, she said.

Bailey said she believes the suspect is the same Larry G. Bailey who was arrested in November after a campfire destroyed his tent and all his belongings where he was living next to Interstate 5 at LaBree Road. That 52-year-old was cited for reckless burning.

Bailey was booked into the Lewis County Jail for first-degree robbery, for first-degree kidnapping and a drug violation, according to police. The kidnapping allegation comes from taking the bank employee into the vault, police said.

He is scheduled to go before a Lewis County Superior Court judge this afternoon.

•••

For background, read “Chehalis Chase bank robbed, one in custody after fleeing on bicycle” from Monday January 26, 2015 at 1:10 p.m., here

Chehalis Chase bank robbed, one in custody after fleeing on bicycle

Monday, January 26th, 2015
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Customers come and go after Chase Bank reopens this afternoon for business.

Updated at 2:20 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Police detained a man riding a bicycle following a bank robbery this morning at Chase Bank in Chehalis.

Officers responded about 10:45 a.m. to the 600 block of South Market Boulevard.

“Initial information was the suspect was no longer in the area and a description was given,” the Chehalis Police Department stated in a news release.

It appears the robber implied he had a gun but one was not shown, according to police.

Law enforcement officers from Chehalis, Centralia and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office set up containment and searched the area. A police dog discovered various pieces of clothing near the bank, suggesting the individual was trying to change his appearance, shedding clothing as he fled, according to police.

Schools in the are area put on temporary lockdown, according to police.

An individual matching the suspect’s description was later seen on a bicycle north of there near the West Street overpass by a helpful witness, who pointed a deputy in his direction, department spokesperson Linda Bailey said.

The subject crashed his bike and banged his forehead, scaled one fence and was attempting to scale another when the deputy apprehended him, according to authorities.

Evidence located on the subject as well as statements made lead police to believe they apprehended the person responsible for the robbery, the 12:45 p.m. news release reads.

“At this point, we believe the individual acted alone,” police wrote.

Fire department personnel responded to the shoulder of the west side of Interstate 5 near the West Street overpass to bandage up the man, and police took him to the hospital, according to the Chehalis Fire Department.

Bailey said nobody at the bank was hurt.

“Shook up, but no injuries,” she said.

The schools – R.E. Bennett Elementary, Cascade Elementary and St. Joseph Catholic School – were notified at 11:45 a.m. they could end their alert, according to Bailey.

Some money was recovered she said. An unspecified amount of cash was stolen, the bank is still doing its inventory, according to Bailey.

The matter remains under investigation.

Chase Bank was robbed in the spring of 2013, by a 54-year-old Kelso man who was followed by officers down Interstate 5 into Cowlitz County, and was arrested as money was falling out of his shorts’ pocket onto the ground.

It was also robbed a year earlier by a pair of local men who got away briefly with less than $2,500, moments after a failed attempt at the nearby Twin Star Credit Union – which keeps no cash in its drawers.

New sheriff to focus on professionalism for his office

Friday, January 23rd, 2015
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Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza is backed up by his appointed leadership team as he addresses his employees.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

NAPAVINE – Newly elected Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza took the stage yesterday in front of his employees offering some insights into his priorities over the next four years.

With a new sheriff comes a new motto, vision and mission, he told them.

The motto: “Public safety through professional service.”

“What it really means, it’s what we’ve been doing,” Snaza said.

The 49-year-old Napavine area resident and longtime member of the sheriff’s office introduced his chosen undersheriff, Wes Rethwill, who retired as a captain from the Washington State Patrol to join Snaza’s team. Snaza described Undersheriff Rethwill as someone with a ton of experience he’s known many years.

“About three and a half years ago, we met and talked about this,” Snaza said. “He’s an incredible individual, and he took a chance on me.”

Rethwill told the assembled group he was very excited and proud to get back to his roots, noting that in the early days of his career, he worked as a reserve sheriff’s deputy.

“My job is to get you folks the tools you need, so you can better serve the citizens of the county,” Rethwill said.

The afternoon gathering took place in the expansive sanctuary of Bethel Church of the Assemblies of God in Napavine, as previous sheriff’s office annual meetings have been. While the parking lot was filled with patrol vehicles, a half dozen state troopers were covering the roads for the deputies.

“I could not be here today without all of you,” Snaza said.

He spoke of less segregation between the operations side and the corrections side of the office. He spoke of upcoming leadership training for the newest employee all the way up to the top.

Joining him on the stage for most of the program was his chosen command staff.

Along with Rethwill, were newly appointed Field Operations Chief Bruce Kimsey, continuing Corrections Chief Kevin Hanson, continuing Special Services Chief Stacy Brown, continuing Director of Property Management Isabelle Williams, newly appointed Field Operations Commander Dusty Breen and Corrections Captain Jim Pea. Longtime Administrative Assistant Sherri Guenther is part of Snaza’s leadership team as well.

In the audience were two of former Sheriff Steve Mansfield’s command staff, Cmdr. Steve Aust who is now the detective sergeant and former Chief Criminal Deputy Gene Seiber who will work as a detective.

Sheriff Snaza plans for deputies to work more closely with school children, implementing an Adopt-a-School program.

“I made a commitment during my campaign to our youth,” he said.

He spoke of how they can help the young people of the county see how the sheriff’s office is important to them.

Much of the afternoon was spent on the sheriff and the undersheriff handing out the numerous annual awards to employees and also two citizens. Among them, he gave Guardian Awards to two individuals.

“These are my awards,” Snaza said.

To Corrections Officer Kevin Dickey, for “(G)oing out there everyday and fighting the good fight for all of us, through drug court.”

To Detective Duke Adkisson, and his commitment to the community: “He will find you, hunt you down and take you to jail,” he said.

The others follow:

Employee of the Year
• Corrections Bureau: Corrections Officer Bill Wood
• Corrections Bureau Support Staff: Support Technician Noel Sharp
• Field Operations Bureau: Deputy Curt Spahn
• Special Services Bureau: Support Technician II Robin Merchant

Top Performer
• Corrections Bureau: Corrections Officer Stan Langland
• Field Operations Bureau: Deputy Gabe Frase

A Sheriff’s Unit Commendation was awarded to the Corrections Field Training Officer Team:
• Sergeant Joyce McCoy
• Sergeant Ricky Claxton
• Corrections Officer Sean Heppe
• Corrections Officer Tawnya Scharber
• Corrections Officer Gary Allen
• Corrections Officer Andrea Lowe
• Corrections Officer Tifanie Reynolds
• Corrections Officer Seth Sharp
• Administrative Assistant Carrie Breen

Citizen Service Medal
• Community members Clifford and Christine Clark were both recognized for generosity in donating over $10,000 to the Shop with a Cop Program.
• Darris McDaniel of Shop n Kart received this for the generosity of his ongoing donations to the Lewis County Memorial Fund, Shop with a Cop, and Lewis County Youth Scholarship Fund.

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Employees of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office line up for professional group photo.

Police: Jealous woman stabs self, blames Centralia man

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 30-year-old woman who allegedly stabbed herself and blamed it on a Centralia man remains free on $10,000 unsecured bond following an appearance yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court.

Amy D. Moore is charged with malicious prosecution and also felony harassment for events that took place in mid-November. The case was filed Jan. 2 and she was summonsed to court.

Charging documents state Centralia police interviewed Moore at an Olympia hospital where she told them Michel Dobbs stabbed her three times in the chest, with one of the wounds puncturing a lung.

“She told police she would be handling the situation herself and had been in contact with several people, including Robbie Russell,” the documents state. Officers made it clear they would continue to investigate however, the documents state.

Police arrested Dobbs, and he told them Moore became enraged after showing up at his home and finding him in bed with another female, and that she grabbed two or three steak knives and began cutting her own hair and stabbed herself, according to the allegations.

Charging documents state Dobbs provided police with the hair she cut off as well as Facebook messages between the two in which she admitted the wounds were self-inflicted.

Moore told police the argument was over a letter she sent her father.

Court documents say the following day, Dobbs found a note written on a piece of wood on his doorstep that he was going to die, and that a female named Tammy Twidwell began receiving threatening text messages.

Defense attorney Joely O’Rourke noted to the judge yesterday afternoon her client was student at South Puget Sound College and not working, so she qualified for a court appointed attorney.

Moore has a Tumwater address.

During the hearing, Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt indicated Moore could not have any contact with the complaining witnesses.

O’Rourke requested they be allowed to have contact because they planned to be married next week.

Judge Hunt said no. A man who had been sitting next to Moore in court got up and left.

Moore was ordered to undergo administrative booking at the jail. Her arraignment is scheduled for next Thursday.

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Updated at 8:29 p.m.

MEN POSING AS CITY WORKERS TRY TO TRICK BANK

• Chehalis police responded the the Washington State Employees Credit Union on Northeast Kresky Avenue about 3 p.m. yesterday after two males showed up and said they were with the city and wanted to look at the building’s plumbing and electrical. Police were told the men didn’t have city identification, but did have driver’s licenses from out of state, according to the Chehalis Police Department. Officers viewed photos of the suspects and tried to locate a vehicle, but to no avail, according to police. Turns out it was like a “secret shopper” situation organized by the bank, and through a glitch, the branch wasn’t notified as they should have been, according to department spokesperson Linda Bailey. Police learned this morning it was a training exercise they do with their branches, Bailey said.

MISSING DOLLY

• The Texaco on the 100 block of U.S. Highway 12 east of Napavine is missing a 2002 U-Haul International car dolly valued at $1,500, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reports this morning. The last time it was known to be in the business’s inventory was on Dec. 22 and is believed to have been returned by a customer sometime between then and Tuesday and parked in front of the store next to the highway, according to the sheriff’s office.

DON’T SHOOT THAT GUN

• Chehalis police were called to the 300 block of Southwest Pacific Avenue yesterday about a missing black powder rifle. It disappeared the night before sometime between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and may have just been borrowed, but its owner is concerned if anyone tries to use it they could be hurt because it has a crack in the barrel, according to the Chehalis Police Department. It was described as silver colored with a wooden stock, according to police.

POSTAL THEFT

• Someone broke into a mailbox overnight at the 1100 block of Kresky Avenue in Centralia, according to a report made to police yesterday morning.

GRAFFITI

• Centralia police were called about 8:15 a.m. yesterday about the tagging of an apartment building on the 400 block of North Ash Street.

CAR PROWL

• Chehalis police yesterday took reports of three more vehicles with their windows smashed out and/or prowled along the 400 blocks of Northeast Adams and Southwest William avenues.

FROM THE COURTHOUSE

• An arraignment is set for next Thursday for a 21-year-old Centralia man charged with second-degree robbery who allegedly took cash from his girlfriend and threatened to punch her when she tried to get it back on Monday. Nevarone N. Rubin was arrested on Monday following the incident in Centralia and charged Tuesday in Lewis County Superior Court. Charging documents state the girl’s father left her $260 cash and when Rubin showed up, he grabbed it from a table, and the two struggled for a brief moment. A judge set his bail at $10,000. He qualified for a court-appointed attorney.

• A 33-year-old Winlock man remains held on $50,000 bail following his arrest on Monday for an incident in early November in which and another man allegedly barged into an acquaintance’s residence in Toledo demanding valuables. Kyle E. Rogers was brought before a judge yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court where he is charged with second-degree robbery. Charging documents allege a visitor answered the door and two men wearing bandanas burst in; one named “Nick” threatened them with a beer bottle and Rogers punched the resident in the face. The men reportedly took three computers and fled. Charges were filed on Dec. 30 and an arrest warrant issued when Rogers’ whereabouts were unknown, according to court documents. A Lewis County deputy prosecutor recommended to the judge yesterday afternoon the bail be left at $50,000, given that Roger’s history included two assaults, eluding, witness tampering plus juvenile offense. The judge agreed. His arraignment was set for today.

DUI WRECK

• A 35-year-old Packwood woman was arrested overnight for driving under the influence after she reportedly ran a stop sign and struck a utility pole on the 100 block of Timberline Drive in Packwood. Deputies responding about 12:20 a.m. booked Dawnette M. Wicks into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants; responses for dispute, disorderly person, misdemeanor assault, suspicious circumstances, lost or stolen license plate, collision on county road, landlord finding more than 100 syringes laying around a residence after evicting a tenant … and more.

Telephone bandit strikes twice in Chehalis

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – They didn’t sneak in to burglarize her home while she was away, or hack into her bank accounts through the internet, but someone managed to bilk an 81-year-old Chehalis woman out of thousands of dollars.

Twice, in less than two months.

In December, she lost about $23,000, after receiving a phone call telling her she was the winner of a $2.5 million lottery and a new car. She was told she needed to pay for taxes and the vehicle registration and sent money to individuals in other states.

When Chehalis police learned of the theft, they weren’t optimistic about recovering any of it.

The scam, using old fashioned technology like a telephone and the U.S. mail worked out well for the unknown thieves, but very bad for the elderly victim.

On Friday, an officer was called to the same woman’s home again, and learned she was tricked out of another nearly $15,000.

It was clearly the same people, according to Officer Steve Nikander. At first she said no, but they convinced her they could get her money back, Nikander said.

“All she had to do is send more money, that she did win the car and the lottery,” he said. “The exact same thing, two months in a row, and she believed them.”

“It’s horrible, it’s sad,” he said.

Nikander said the victim lives with her grown daughter, who works and goes to school.

“She’s elderly, she’s alone a lot,” he said. “I think she’s just a very trusting lady.”

Some of the details are unclear, as she was embarrassed, and not very forthcoming because of that, he said.

She apparently increased the limit on her credit cards and got cash advances.

The first time, she sent money orders, but her daughter had seen one and asked about it, Nikander said.

So this time, they told her to buy a greeting card and tuck the cash inside, he said. She did.

She mailed money to addresses in California, Ohio and Massachusetts, he said.

He speculated how someone might use fake identification to rent a private mailbox for a month, and once their scam is finished, just walk away.

Solvability with such schemes is difficult at best, Chehalis Police Department detective Sgt. Gary Wilson said.

Detectives would need to confirm the identify of the thief before sending a police agency in another state to try to track them down, he said. These are the kind people who don’t use their real names, according to Wilson.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office has had at least two similar thefts just this month. One was someone pretending to be a grandson who needed emergency money, and the other was someone telling an 83-year-old Winlock woman she had won a new vehicle.

Nikander sat down with the Chehalis victim and her grown daughter and talked about options, the tough kind of conversation about powers of attorney, maybe counseling, maybe a visit to her doctor, he said.

He took a report for informational purposes, and what can be done beyond that, he didn’t know.

There are literally millions of dollars a day lost in phone scams, he said.

“The best offense is education, to not let it happen in the first place,” he said.

His advice for anyone and everyone with elderly family members is to make sure to school them about a basic fact of life.

“If you have to send money to win, it’s a scam,” he said.

Summertime heroin case proceeds for two defendants

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Phillip A. Pinotti and Zachary J. Maurer have both pleaded not guilty to their drug charge filed earlier this month in connection with an alleged incident last summer.

Pinotti, 22, of Adna, has been in and out of jail and courtrooms since his high profile escape from an attempted misdemeanor arrest at Centralia Municipal Court in December that drew gunfire from an officer.

One of the allegations in that case is when he left his car with two friends, before going into hiding, he grabbed a backpack and another bag, saying he didn’t want to leave his drugs in the car.

While free on bail, he allegedly sold heroin to a person working with police and was charged on Jan. 9 with delivery of a controlled substance, and possession of the same.

Prosecutors the same day also filed charges against he and Maurer of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver based on an incident in August with Centralia police.

According to charging documents, Centralia police had him and Maurer under surveillance as they went to Longview to purchase heroin, and subsequently impounded the vehicle and found heroin, a digital scale and smoking devices. The documents make no mention of either man getting arrested.

Pinotti went before a Lewis County Superior Court judge the afternoon of Jan. 9 when his bail was set at $75,000 bail on each of the two separate drug cases. Maurer was arrested that day, and on the following Monday a judge set his bail at $50,000.

Maurer, 25, has a Centralia address.

Their August contact with police began with a tip from someone described as a reliable source that Maurer would be traveling to Cowlitz County to purchase heroin to sell in Lewis County and Pinotti would be traveling with him, according to charging documents.

Charging documents go on to say that police surveillance was underway when Maurer exchanged someone’s Volkswagen Jetta for a black BMW belonging to Pinotti’s girlfriend. They go on to state that when the BMW returned to Lewis County and pulled into a gas station, the two were contacted by police.

After Centralia police dog Kayo “alerted” to the presence of a suspected controlled substance in the car, and while police waited for a tow truck to impound the car, Pinotti and Maurer were seen conversing, and Pinotti reportedly approached and officer and said he would “take the fall,” charging documents state.

Neither were under arrest and they left, the documents state, without elaborating as to why they were let go.

But a search of the car’s glove box, according to the allegations, turned up numerous items including a canvas bag bearing the name Clarity HD, and inside of it was a working scale, two smoking devices and a rubber container with brown tar.

Also found in the glove box were two “balls” of heroin strewn freely and two more small balls in foil inside an empty pack of Marlboro cigarettes.

The documents state that Maurer is the only one of the two who had cigarettes during the stop and they were the same type, and that he possessed a Clarity speaker that went with the canvas bag.

The amount of heroin seized isn’t mentioned in the documents, only that Pinotti had estimated to an officer that a quarter ounce was purchased, with a $400 wholesale or a $700 street value.

Police also seized cell phones and a moderate amount of cash from each man, according to the documents.

In appealing for a lesser bail for Maurer, defense attorney Joely O’Rourke noted to the judge that while he had a bit of criminal history, his warrant history was very minimal.

Maurer’s trial is scheduled for the week of March 9. Pinotti is scheduled to be back in court on Thursday to set his trial date.

Both remain in the Lewis County Jail.
•••

For background, read :

• “Prosecutor: Pinotti caught with heroin this summer, and again recently” from Friday January 9, 2015, here

• “Sentence: Six days in jail for escape that led to gunfire in Centralia” from Wednesday January 14, 2015, here

Cluster of winter fires have common denominator

Sunday, January 18th, 2015
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Items too close to a wood stove ignited a shop and guest house in Winlock overnight, while the cause of a Grand Mound residential fire is not yet known. / Courtesy photo by Derrick Paul

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 2-year-old child was taken to the hospital last night after fire broke out in a home in Grand Mound.

Firefighters called about 10:15 p.m. to a mobile home park in the 7100 block of 191st Avenue Southwest found flames coming out two of the windows, according to West Thurston Regional Fire Authority.

“They did a quick knock down but there was still substantial fire, heat and smoke damage to the rest of the (mobile) home,” Fire Chief Robert Scott said.

Crews revived a small dog but the family lost several other pets inside, according to Scott.

The fire’s cause is not yet known, but a cluster of fires in recent days have all been related to heating sources.

Scott said the toddler had slight burns and suffered from smoke inhalation. The child was evaluated by medical personnel and transported by private vehicle to Providence Centralia Hospital, according to WTRFA.

Twenty firefighters from three fire departments battled the blaze and some were on the scene into the early morning hours, according to Scott. He said the family was offered the Red Cross for assistance but for now are staying with a friend in the area.

An investigator was going to be out there today to figure out what caused it, according to Scott.

In Lewis County, an investigator today concluded an overnight fire in Winlock was caused by items too close to a wood stove.

It’s the third time in three days with a similar finding in Lewis County; combustibles too close to a heat source, according to Investigator Derrick Paul.

It’s an important issue for the public to consider, according to Paul.

“Three in three days is too much, as far as I’m concerned,” Paul said. “In these cases it just happened to be wood stoves, but it can happen with baseboard heaters, or space heaters or similar.”

The early morning blaze on Quary Lane north of Winlock did an estimated $110,000 damage.

Firefighters responding about 2 a.m. from Lewis County Fire District 15 and two neighboring districts found a fully furnished guest house and adjoining shop burning, according to Paul.

He said they did a good job extinguishing it in a timely manner but the building and its contents were a complete loss. Also damaged were a travel trailer and a utility trailer parked outside next the approximately 70 foot by 40 foot building, according to Paul.

The owner was working in the shop the evening before, which contained the wood stove, Paul said.

“The cause of the fire was a direct result of combustible items too close to a working wood stove,” Paul indicated this morning.

These fire victims were insured, but the owners of the decimated building he investigated on Friday east of Napavine were not, according to Paul.

The loss to Fire Mountain Farms loss at the 300 block of state Route 508 is estimated at $1.8 million.

The third fire was in Randle, where a little cabin used for storage was destroyed yesterday morning.

It was just a little more than a week ago when the state fire marshal issued a warning to the public, related to home heating sources during the winter and fires around the state.

Four people were killed in two recent residential fires fires caused by portable electric space heaters, according to Deputy State Fire Marshal Lysandra Davis.

Given that the cold winer months are the peak time for such incidents, the fire marshall offered safety tips directed at space heater use.

• Ensure the heater is placed on a stable, level surface, and located where it will not be knocked over.
• Never power the heater with an extension cord or power strip.
• Keep combustible material such as beds, sofas, curtains, papers and clothes at least three feet from the front, sides and rear of the heater.
• Be sure the heater plug fits tightly into the wall outlet. If not, do not use the outlet to power the heater.
• Never operate a heater you suspect is damaged. Before use, inspect the heater, cord, and plug for damage. Follow all operation and maintenance instructions.
• Never leave the heater operating while unattended or while you are sleeping.
• During use, check frequently to determine if the heater plug or cord, wall outlet, or faceplate is hot. If the plug, outlet or faceplate is hot, discontinue use of the heater, and have a qualified electrician check and/or replace the plug or faulty wall outlet(s). If the cord is hot, disconnect the heater, and have it inspected/repaired by an authorized repair person.
• Lastly, make sure you always have working smoke alarms installed in your home.

To learn more about winter fire safety visit the U.S. Fire Administration website at: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/winter.html

News brief: Randle cabin burns

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A fire broke out this morning in Randle, in a little cabin used for storage.

Firefighters responding about 5:45 a.m. to the 1100 block of Silverbrook Road extinguished the blaze, but it was a total loss, according to Lewis County Fire District 14.

Nobody was hurt, and its owner’s nearby home was unharmed, according to Fire Chief Jeff Jaques.

Jaques said the structure contained shop-type items.

A fire investigator was going to be checking it out this morning, according to the chief.

Napavine area business loses building, equipment in fire

Friday, January 16th, 2015
2015.0115.napavinebarnfire

Flames rise from commercial structure on the 300 block of state Route 508, just east of Interstate 5.

Updated at 1:56 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A fire last night just east of Napavine is estimated to have caused a loss of property in excess of $1 million for a Lewis County business that specializes in recycling wastewater treatment plant biosolids for fertilizer.

Fire Mountain Farms, a family business, also raises cattle.

“Luckily our cow operation is up on Burnt Ridge,” Ryan Thode, vice president of operations said this morning.

Thode this morning was at the facility on the 300 block of state Route 508, having spent the past several hours watching for hot spots and salvaging what he could, he said. The fire department left around 4 a.m., he said.

Firefighters called just before 8 p.m. last night arrived to find the large metal building filled with flames, according to the newly named Newaukum Valley Fire and Rescue; formerly Lewis County Fire District 5.

A department spokesperson in a news release said the structure and contents are considered a complete loss.

Spokesperson Lt. Laura Hanson indicated no one was injured.

Twenty personnel from their department and five neighboring agencies battled the blaze, according to Hanson. Initial reports to the sheriff’s office indicated a gas pipeline nearby was involved or threatened, but a deputy determined that wasn’t the case, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

While numerous ordinary shop items inside caused explosions – propane and welding tanks, an air compressor – what took the longest was dealing with the hay, Fire Chief Gregg Peterson said.

An excavator was used to retrieve each bail one by one, and break it up while firefighters sprayed it down, he said.

The business owners were not present at the time of the fire, according to Hanson. A fire investigator and the sheriff’s office are looking into the cause.

The building is described as 150 feet by 40 feet, with a lean-to attached shed on the back and a loft area.

It contained farm equipment and fabrication tools, among them were dredgers the company uses to dredge treatment plant lagoons.

“Unfortunately, we had all three stored in there,” Thode said.

Thode estimated they had around 500 bales of hay inside, for sale, and tons of barley which would have fed their own animals.

He, his father and mother also lost eight motorcycles, he said. He said he was able to salvage one replica Indian sidecar.

 

Father admits he shook his infant child, didn’t know CPR

Thursday, January 15th, 2015
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Tyler C. Abair is accompanied by his lawyer Shane O’Rourke in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Napavine area father accused of shaking his 4-month-old daughter, causing a bruised brain pleaded guilty yesterday to a much lesser offense than originally charged with.

Prosecutors concluded the evidence didn’t show that Tyler C. Abair committed first-degree assault, and he pleaded guilty to third-degree assault instead.

“In this particular case, the child has recovered,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead said.

Abair was arrested last spring, a month after an incident in which he said the infant choked on formula and stopped breathing. He acknowledged that he shook her, but also that he was terrified and didn’t know CPR, according to court documents.

Court documents referenced a doctor who indicated the child exhibited classic but not severe signs of Shaken Baby Syndrome.

The 23-year-old was living with his ex-wife with whom he was reconciling, and their twins, staying at home caring for them while she worked.

Halstead said Abair’s actions were negligent, but lacked intent to harm the baby; the difference between the two offenses.

Halstead noted to the judge yesterday afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court that a workup on the other twin left them believing the hemorrhaging came from birth.

Abair was represented by defense attorney Shane O’Rourke

Abair also pleaded guilty to second-degree theft, for separate conduct that was not previously charged.

Halstead told the judge they wanted to do the sentencing on another day, so the child’s mother could attend the hearing.

When he is sentenced Jan. 28, he faces a standard sentencing range of 12 to 16 months, according to O’Rourke.

Abair was arrested on May 6, 2014, and remains in the Lewis County Jail.
•••

For background, read “High bail ordered for Chehalis dad in shaken baby case ” from Wednesday May 7, 2014, here

Defendant’s indigent status questioned at arraignment

Thursday, January 15th, 2015
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Jence S. Sawyer, left, and his attorney Don Blair listen to the prosecutor during proceedings today in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A former Chehalis area man was grilled in court by a judge today, through his attorney, about how he got a court appointed lawyer if he was earning as much as $20 an hour in North Dakota before his recent arrest.

Court-appointed attorney Don Blair had just told the judge his client spent the last year and a half working 12-hour days, seven days a week as a carpenter. The Centralia attorney was explaining his request to lower the bail for Jence S. Sawyer, from $150,000 to $20,000.

“So why are you appointed then,” Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt asked.

Blair said he didn’t inquire as to why.

“Where did the money go,” Hunt asked.

Blair, as he queried his 23-year-old client, relayed to the judge a “bunch” was paid to a collection agency, and some spent on a new work truck that is sitting in the sheriff’s impound lot in North Dakota.

“Well, I’m going to be looking into this,” Hunt said.

Sawyer was in court this morning for his arraignment on two separate cases, one involving an underage girl and the other involving his estranged girlfriend, alleged to have occurred a year or so ago. He was charged last summer, but deputies only recently located him in Williston, North Dakota.

Lewis County sheriff’s deputies picked him this weekend and brought him back to Lewis County.

Sawyer is charged with second-degree assault and unlawful imprisonment, with sexual motivation, for a May 2014 incident in which he allegedly wouldn’t let his former girlfriend leave his home, although she finally was able to flee with her baby through a window.

He is also charged with third-degree rape of a child for an alleged encounter in November 2013 with a 15-year-old girl he befriended in Packwood.

Sawyer pleaded not guilty this morning and his trial was scheduled for the week of March 2. He has no prior felony history.

Judge Hunt did not reduce his bail.
•••

For background, read “Wanted Chehalis man found in North Dakota” from Monday January 12, 2015, here

Sentence: Six days in jail for escape that led to gunfire in Centralia

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
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Phillip A. Pinotti pleads guilty today as charged for December Centralia Municipal Court incident

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Originally charged with trying to run down a court security officer, a 22-year-old Adna man instead was convicted today of three misdemeanors and sentenced to time served.

Phillip A. Pinotti drew gunfire when he fled an attempted arrest on a misdemeanor warrant in Centralia last month, on foot and then in his car. The bullet shattered his driver’s window and glass fragments cut his face, but he was otherwise unharmed.

Last week, prosecutors dismissed a charge of first-degree assault and replaced it with obstructing, a gross misdemeanor, saying they concluded Pinotti had no intent to injure the officer.

Centralia Court Security Officer Steve Howard said after Pinotti started his engine, the car jerked forward, and he thought he was going to be hit. Pinotti said he put it in reverse and hit the gas as hard as he could.

No other witnesses spoke of the car moving forward.

Howard wasn’t injured either. His use of deadly force was found to be lawful.

Today, Pinotti was in Lewis County Superior Court to plead guilty to obstructing, third-degree escape and tampering with evidence.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer told the judge the state’s position is the evidence in the case did not reveal an assault.

He recommended a sentence of 364 days, with all but six days suspended, giving Pinotti credit for time served in the jail.

“Frankly Mr. Pinotti is lucky,” Meyer said. “He’s lucky he’s even sitting here. He’s lucky he’s not dead.”

Defense attorney Don Blair said he agreed with the sentence.

“I agree, and Phillip agrees, what he did back on the 16th was stupid,” Blair said.

Blair said clearly it was a bad decision on his client’s part, but one he will have learned from.

Judge Nelson Hunt read aloud Pinotti’s written confession, about his flight from Centralia Municipal Court and Officer Howard.

“I went out of the courtroom and ran to my car and did not stop when an officer told me to stop,” Hunt read. “I had my friends park my mother’s car in the garage.”

The judge asked Pinotti if those were his words, and numerous other questions. Pinotti addressed the judge as sir with each reply.

Pinotti’s only previous conviction was a misdemeanor.

When the hearing was over, Pinotti was escorted back to the jail, where he is being held on charges filed last week for alleged delivery of heroin while he was out on bail, and for possessing a large amount of heroin last summer.

His arraignment on those charges is scheduled for tomorrow.
•••

For background, read “Charge of assault that prompted officer to shoot, dropped for Adna resident” from Thursday January 8, 2015, here

Dangerous strain of pneumonia strikes suddenly for Mossy firefighter

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
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Jeff Fosburg poses outside the Mossyrock Fire Department for a photo in October.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A potentially fatal form of pneumonia has struck an otherwise healthy 28-year-old volunteer firefighter from Mossyrock.

Jeff Fosburg, a bachelor with a St. Bernard as a roommate was fine until he suddenly took ill early last month, according to his father.

“He was getting a cold,” Mossyrock Fire Chief Doug Fosburg said of his grown son. “It went from just a cold on a Friday afternoon, to being in ICU at Providence on Tuesday.”

That was Dec. 9.

Doctors found the younger Fosburg had contracted MRSA  pneumonia in both lungs. The MRSA bacteria is the strain which is resistant to most antibiotics, his father said.

They don’t know how he caught it, but he works at the Lucky Eagle Casino as a security guard, and is around a lot of people, the chief said.

Jeff was transferred to a Vancouver hospital, and then shortly after to a Portland hospital equipped to deal with the unusual illness. It’s only the sixth or seventh case of this type they’ve ever treated, he said.

He’s improving Chief Fosburg said this morning, but isn’t expected to be well enough to go home for two to three months, he said.

“He’s getting better, but he’s still on a ventilator, and still at Legacy,” Fosburg said. “If he hadn’t have been as healthy as he was, he probably wouldn’t have survived it.”

It’s going to be a long road to recovery, even after he’s released, he said.

One of his co-workers at the Mossyrock Fire Department has set up an account to assist with paying Jeff’s ongoing household bills while he is not working.

Jeff has health insurance, but his neighboring firefighters in Salkum are putting together a benefit to raise money, as it could be as long as six months before he’s able to work, according to Byron Peck, president of the Salkum Volunteer Firefighter and EMS Association.

Chief Fosburg said he understands that is aimed at helping out with excess health care costs.

Salkum firefighters say that any donations for their silent auction can be brought to their main station on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. until Feb. 5. That’s at 2490 U.S. Highway 12 in Salkum.

The auction and spaghetti dinner fundraiser will be held at the same location, on Saturday Feb. 7, from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m.

Centralia resident dies in logging accident in Grays Harbor County

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Centralia man was killed in a logging accident over the weekend southwest of Oakville.

The Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office said it happened in the Minot area on the Brooklyn T-Line Road. They were called at 11:15 a.m. on Saturday.

Erin L. VanBrocklin, 41, had been bucking a log and a crew was rigging up a yarder, according to the sheriff’s office.

A log broke loose and it rolled downhill crushing the victim between it and the log he was working on, Undersheriff Dave Pimentel said.

Pimentel said co-workers had to cut VanBrocklin out, and they placed him a stretcher and drove six miles to where they met an ambulance at where the T-Line meets Brooklyn Road.

“He was tended to by an aid crew and pronounced dead,” Pimentel said.

Grays Harbor County Fire District 1 Firefighter Shawn Burdett said members of Centralia’s fire department were first on the scene. Responders continued CPR until medics arrived, Burdett said.

He was working for B and M Logging, according to the Department of Labor and Industries. The state agency is investigating the death.

Wanted Chehalis man found in North Dakota

Monday, January 12th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 23-year-old man was returned to Lewis County from North Dakota this weekend on warrants from last summer when he was charged with two separate sexually motivated crimes, one involving an underage girl and the other involving his estranged girlfriend.

The alleged incidents took place in November 2013 and the following May. Deputies were unable to locate Jence S. Sawyer until now and traveled to Williston, North Dakota on Thursday to bring him back, according to authorities.

On May 16, a deputy spoke with Sawyer’s estranged girlfriend, who described how she finally crawled out a bedroom window with her baby after Sawyer refused to let her leave his home, tried to have sex with her and assaulted her, according to charging documents.

The Chehalis area resident is being held on $150,000 bail.

The former girlfriend said she had gone to visit Sawyer so he could see their baby, and when she declined his advances, he held her in various ways including locking the front door, picking up the baby and saying she could not go and even pulling her back through a window by her ankles, before slapping and choking her, charging documents allege.

The documents don’t say how long it went on but indicate it was her third attempt to leave by the window that was successful.

Charging documents say she took her baby, ran into the bedroom and locked the door behind her. Once outside, she ran through bushes, grass and through a ditch up to Jackson Highway where she flagged down a passing motorist and police were contacted, the documents state.

The sheriff’s office reported in May the two were arguing over infidelity and at one point, the incident included Sawyer holding a rifle to his chin.

Sawyer is charged with second-degree assault and unlawful imprisonment, with sexual motivation.

According to charging documents in the other case, the sheriff’s office took a report last April from a 15-year-old girl at White Pass High School about a sexual encounter she said took place five months earlier, in which she said she told Sawyer several times to stop and he refused. For that, he is charged with third-degree rape of a child.

Charges in both cases were filed on Aug. 21. Sawyer was booked into the Lewis County Jail on Saturday and was brought before a judge this afternoon.

Defense attorney Joely O’Rourke told the judge that Sawyer was recently employed, but is now not working and has no prior felony history.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead said he has a pending drug charge.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey appointed Centralia attorney Don Blair to represent him. Sawyer’s arraignment is scheduled for Thursday morning.

The judge ordered him to have no contact with minors.

One dead from boating accident on Chehalis River

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Updated at 6:28 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – One of a pair of fisherman who went into the river after their boat began taking on water this afternoon died despite efforts to save him.

It happened on the Chehalis River about 10 miles west west of Chehalis, near Dryad.

“Two guys, friends, were fishing in a little 12-foot aluminum boat and they hit some rapids,” Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said.

The men jumped into the water when their boat began to sink, according to Brown.

“The one who was wearing a life jacket survived; the one who wasn’t did not,” she said.

The survivor was able to find his friend, drag him to shore and performed CPR for 20 to 30 minutes, according to Brown.

When that didn’t work, he swam back across the river and found a bicyclist riding along a trail to use a cell phone to call 911 for help, she said.

It happened about 11:40 a.m., according to Brown.

Deputies and aid were called at 12:36 a.m. to the area near the 400 block of River Road, according to Brown.

Members of Lewis County Fire Districts 6, 11 and 16 responded, but there was no resuscitating the man, Firefighter Kyle DePriest said.

The men’s ages and hometowns are not yet available. The survivor was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital to be treated for hypothermia, according to Lewis County Fire District 6.
•••

CORRECTION: This has been updated to correctly reflect that the sheriff’s office and aid were dispatched at the same time; and that the survivor said the initial incident took place at 11:40 a.m.

Prosecutor: Pinotti caught with heroin this summer, and again recently

Friday, January 9th, 2015
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Phillip A. Pinotti, 22, of Adna, is locked up again, now on drug charges.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The arrest on drug charges last night of 22-year-old Phillip A. Pinotti stem from a “reliable and credible source” who purchased heroin from Pinotti on an unspecified recent day while police secretly observed and also from an incident police recently told prosecutors about that occurred back in August, according to court documents.

Pinotti was free on bail, but prepared to plead guilty next week for the events of Dec. 16 when he fled as he was being arrested on a misdemeanor warrant, and was shot at by a Centralia Municipal Court security officer.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt this afternoon ordered the Adna resident held on $75,000 bail on each of the two new separate cases.

He was charged today for the August incident with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

According to charging documents, Centralia police had him and another man under surveillance as they went to Longview to purchase heroin, and subsequently impounded the vehicle and found heroin, smoking devices and a digital scale. The documents make no mention of either man getting arrested.

The documents do note law enforcement declined to allow Pinotti to work for them in consideration of potential charges.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer told Judge Hunt police sent the case to his office on Dec. 28.

Pinotti was also charged with possession of heroin and delivery of heroin, for an alleged deal that took place on an unspecified date while Pinotti was under police surveillance. The documents state only that it occurred sometime between Dec. 20 and Jan. 8.

Yesterday, he was stopped and arrested in his parent’s car and reportedly confessed he had just bought some heroin in Centralia, delivered it to a friend and pinched off a chunk for himself, charging documents state.

A brief summary of the arrest from Centralia Police Department Sgt. Jim Shannon indicates the arrest was associated with the 1500 block of South Gold Street in Centralia.

In the car, police also found a digital scale, two heroin injection kits and a police scanner, with the capability of listening to Centralia police, according to the court documents.

Defense attorney Joely O’Rourke this afternoon asked for $25,000 total in bail, noting the young man lives with his parents and has only one misdemeanor on his record, from 2009.

In asking for high bail, Prosecutor Meyer noted one issue came before the escape attempt but the other came afterward.

“After being released on bail, he continued to commit crimes,” Meyer said. “In fact, was found with heroin in his possession; I would say there are significant drug abuse issues.”

Pinotti is scheduled for arraignment next Thursday.
•••

For background, read “Charge of assault that prompted officer to shoot, dropped for Adna resident” from Thursday January 8, 2015, here

News brief: Pinotti arrested for alleged drug dealing

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Updated at 12:44 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Centralia police arrested Phillip A. Pinotti last night for possession and delivery of heroin.

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Phillip A. Pinotti,file photo

A brief summary from Sgt. Jim Shannon indicates the arrest was associated with the 1500 block of South Gold Street in Centralia, and followed a multi-agency investigation.

Pinotti yesterday saw his felony assault charge dropped by prosecutors following the investigation into the events of last month when was fired upon as he tried to escape arrest on a misdemeanor warrant. Pinotti was initially charged with first-degree assault after Centralia Municipal Court Security Officer Steve Howard said he fired one shot because Pinotti tried to hit him with his car.

The bullet missed the 22-year-old Adna resident, but shattered the driver’s side window and was found on the passenger seat of his Subaru.

Yesterday, the Lewis County prosecutor said  Pinotti wasn’t trying run down Howard; but also cleared Howard of wrongdoing in the shooting.

Pinotti is tentatively scheduled to go before a Lewis County Superior Court judge at 4 p.m. today.

Charge of assault that prompted officer to shoot, dropped for Adna resident

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

Updated

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Lewis County prosecutor has found Phillip A. Pinotti wasn’t trying run down a court security officer with his car last month, but also that it wasn’t criminal for the officer to fire his gun at Pinotti who was attempting to escape arrest on a misdemeanor warrant.

It was Dec. 16 when 22-year-old Pinotti was being handcuffed at the end of a hearing in Centralia Municipal Court, that he slipped away from the court security officer and ran to the next block where his car was parked.

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Phillip A. Pinotti,file photo

Pinotti’s Subaru either lurched forward or it didn’t, before he put it in reverse, drove backwards at a high rate of speed, and fled the area.

Centralia Court Security Officer Steve Howard fired one shot breaking the driver’s side window, saying he was was in fear for his safety, that the car was being used as a weapon. Pinotti survived, he wasn’t hit with the bullet, only sprayed with fragments of glass.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer who evaluated all the law enforcement reports on the events of that day indicated it’s not clear if the car lurched forward or not.

“That’s a good question,” Meyer said this morning. “Pinotti says it didn’t, Howard says it did.”

“I’m not saying either one is wrong, it’s perception.”

Prosecutors this morning dropped a first-degree assault charge against Pinotti; they reduced it to obstructing.

“We reached the conclusion yesterday there was no intent on the part of Mr. Pinotti to injure the officer,” Meyer said. “The intent was to escape.”

The Adna resident who is free on bail is scheduled to go before a judge again next week and plead guilty to obstructing, third-degree escape and tampering with evidence.

Lawyers on the two sides agree on how much time they will recommend he should be locked up, Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher said.

Meyer also concluded yesterday that Howard’s use of lethal force was legal under the laws of the state of Washington and that no charges would be filed against him.

The discharge of Howard’s weapon was investigated by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

It has been customary for officer-involved shootings in Lewis County to be investigated by a multi-county shooting review team, that includes members of the sheriff’s office. And customary for the county prosecutor to review the findings and issue a decision.

Meyer said he found Howard’s actions were covered by the statute, 9A.16.040, which addresses justifiable uses of deadly force by a peace officer.

Officer Howard has a limited commission and handles courtroom security for the city. The retired California Highway Patrol officer been working for the city for just short of four months when the incident occurred. He was placed on administrative leave pending the results of the shooting investigation.

Centralia Police Department Chief Bob Berg announced this morning that now that Meyer is finished with his part, an internal use of force review board will be convened.

A review panel consisting of command personnel from the Centralia Police Department and outside law enforcement will provide their findings and recommendations to the chief of police, who will decide of Howard’s actions were consistent with department policies.

“I am pleased that the first part of this investigation has been completed and await the findings and recommendations of the review panel,” Chief Berg stated in his news release.

Howard could be back on the job before the panel’s work is done, according to Berg. He can return once certain once administrative requirements have been met, according to Berg.

Separately, Meagher said the charges would be reduced for Pinotti’s four friends, accused of helping him get away and hide from police. Because Pinotti’s charge is not a felony, their charges become non-felony, he said.

While previous officer-involved shootings have been investigated by a multi-jurisdictional team, the sheriff’s office was the only agency involved in this instance, according to Meyer. The same investigation provided the information for evaluation of charges for both Pinotti and for Howard.

Meyer said he was given a presentation on Friday of what detectives found, and then yesterday he issued a letter to Police Chief Berg regarding Howard.

The 16-page memo includes summaries from eight individuals who were interviewed, plus Berg, Howard and Pinotti. Meyer said a lot of people didn’t see the entire event.

Much of the document consists of Meyer’s legal analysis and ends with his conclusion.

“This office’s role is not to determine if this chain of events could have or should have been avoided,” Meyer wrote. “Nor is it to determine how another law enforcement officer would have reacted in the same scenario.

“Rather, the role of this office is to determine if, under the law, Officer Howard should be charged with a crime.

Meyer looked over RCW 9A16.040 and concluded no charges would be filed against Howard, given that RCW 9A16.040(3) applied.

Part three reads: “A public officer or peace officer shall not be held criminally liable for using deadly force without malice and with a good faith belief that such act is justifiable pursuant to this section.”

In closing, the prosecutor noted he was not authorizing the release of any evidence in the matter, as it may be used in Pinotti’s case.

In his facts, Meyer adds to information already released. He writes that after Pinotti got into his car, he locked the door. He adds that Officer Howard gave repeated commands to Pinotti to stop and surrender.

He adds that Pinotti and other witnesses indicate Howard struck the driver’s side window with his drawn firearm, but Howard does not remember doing that.

Pinotti stated he simply put the vehicle in reverse and backed down Maple Street. Howard told detectives the car lurched toward him.

“What is not clear is how far forward the vehicle is believed to have traveled,” Meyer wrote.

Chief Berg previously said there were just two cars parked outside The Chronicle. One was Pinotti’s, and in front of that, was a vehicle belonging to Centralia attorney J.P. Enbody, according to Meyer.

Enbody was allowed to drive away before the sheriff’s detectives arrived on the scene, but detectives were able to look at photos that had been taken, according to Meyer.

The witnesses interviewed included four Chronicle employees three friends of Pinotti, who are accused of subsequently helping him hide, plus Sarah Gee who had given a ride to court that morning to one of the three.

Only Officer Howard spoke of the car lurching forward. He described it as “jerked forward.”

“Officer Howard said ‘as soon as I hear the car start my mind kinda shifted gears. I go if he starts the car and starts driving I’m going to get hit by the car. I pulled my weapon. I’m pulling my weapon and I’m yelling at him, don’t f****** do it,” Meyer wrote.

Meyer’s memo doesn’t indicate anywhere how far from the car Howard was, only that Howard had taken a position on the “driver’s side front.”

Pinotti’s statement describes Pinotti as telling detectives he sees Officer Howard, “the bailiff, security guard, whatever, is coming around the front of the hood and I see him raise his firearm at me, and states don’t do it, or I’ll f****** shoot you.”

Pinotti said he froze, then his flight instincts took over; saying he just threw it in gear in reverse and hit the gas as hard as he could.

Pinotti thought Howard had swung his gun twice into his window breaking it; he didn’t hear a gunshot and didn’t know the gun was fired until he spoke with others later, according to Meyer.

Chief Berg’s news release issued today takes the position that Officer Howard fired one shot at the vehicle “as it lurched towards him.”

Read Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer’s analysis of Officer Howard’s shooting here
•••

For background, read “Bail set at $50,000 for Adna man arrested after getaway from court officer” from Friday December 19, 2014, here