Phillip A. Pinotti sits at the defendant’s table during his bail hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Twenty-two-year-old Phillip A. Pinotti was brought before a Lewis County Superior Court judge yesterday, facing three serious charges following his flight from a misdemeanor warrant arrest – and a gunshot – earlier this week in Centralia.
The left side of the Adna resident’s face was speckled with red marks, presumably from the shattered glass of his car window when a court security officer fired at him outside the Chronicle building, on West Maple Street.
A bullet was found on the front passenger seat of his blue Subaru; there was a cut in the fabric of the headliner inside the car, similar to a bullet entry point, according to court papers.
Pinotti was charged yesterday with first-degree assault, third-degree escape and tampering with evidence. He allegedly tried to run down the court security officer with his car following a short foot pursuit out of court, that ensued as he was being taken into custody, and then had friends hide his car in his own garage.
Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer asked a judge yesterday afternoon to hold Pinotti in jail pending trial on $200,000 bail.
Meyer noted the defendant has shown the steps he’s willing to take to avoid coming to court.
Defense attorney Joely O’Rourke told the judge she understood he would have some concerns, but that Pinotti has lived in Lewis County since he was 14 years old and has “absolutely no felony history”.
Judge Richard Brosey set bail at $50,000.
Pinotti had gone to Centralia Municipal Court on Tuesday morning on a charge of driving under the influence. While there, the judge discovered he had a warrant from Chehalis Municipal Court and ordered him taken into custody. That’s when he bolted and managed to evade police for almost 24 hours.
According to charging documents, when he was located yesterday morning at a friend’s home on Bishop Road in Chehalis, he exited the room with his hands visible, and provided Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Dan Riordan a handwritten note indicating he was sorry for the incident.
He reportedly admitted to running from the officer saying he wanted to avoid going into custody because he wanted to see his girlfriend.
Charging documents offer details about how he got away and about how he allegedly attempted to assault the court security officer using his vehicle as a weapon.
According to the allegations:
After Pinotti broke free and fled the building, Centralia Municipal Court Officer Steve Howard gave chase, across Pearl Street, west to the next block.
Pinotti’s Subaru was parked on the south side of Maple Street, next to the sidewalk outside the Chronicle, behind another car.
“As Pinotti got into his car, and the officer took position near the front driver side of the vehicle. The officer had his weapon drawn and gave Pinotti direct orders to stop. The defendant entered the vehicle.
“According to the officer, the vehicle lunged forward, and, at that time, the officer discharged his firearm.”
Pinotti placed his car in reverse, drove backwards at a high rate of speed, and fled the area.
Four of Pinotti’s friends also went before a judge yesterday afternoon, accused of helping him hide.
Eighteen-year-old Miguel V. Martinez and 22-year-old Kayla Burleson rode together with Pinotti that morning to go to court, as they all had hearings, but Burleson was sick, so she and Martinez were outside and may have witnessed the escape, according to court papers. Prosecutors indicate they met up with him in the area and then took the car, drove it to Pinotti’s in Adna and parked it in his garage.
The two, who live in Centralia, were each charged today with first-degree rendering criminal assistance and tampering with evidence.
Prosecutor Meyer asked Judge Brosey to hold Burleson on $50,000 bail, but he set it at $10,000.
“Now that I see what’s actually charged, I think that’s appropriate,” Brosey said.
Martinez’s bail was set at $50,000, the same as his bail in an ongoing case of his, because he failed to show up to a drug treatment facility in Vancouver, as ordered.
Burleson reportedly told police that when she found Pinotti, he was slumped over in the driver’s side of his car holding a towel to his face. Martinez said that was at the “penny candy” store. She told deputies he grabbed a backpack and another bag, saying he didn’t want to leave his drugs in the car, court papers state.
Detective Riordan was given information by an un-named person or persons who said Pinotti was picked up from Martinez’s home in Centralia and driven to the LaBree Road area outside Chehalis, hiding under a blanket on the floorboard of the vehicle, according to the documents.
It was just before 9 a.m. on Wednesday when Riordan knocked on the door at the 1600 block of Bishop Road and asked Jaelynn N. Pluard, 22, and her boyfriend, Krystofer M. Yates,19, where Pinotti was.
Pinotti gave himself up.
Pluard and Yates were each charged yesterday with first-degree rendering criminal assistance, and are going to be represented by private attorneys.
Meyer asked they be held on $50,000 bail, but the judge set it at a more modest $5,000 for Pluard and $10,000 unsecured for Yates.
The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said Yates was booked also on a drug offense, as suspected heroin was found in his wallet, but charging documents provided by the prosecutor don’t reflect any drug charge.
Centralia police and sheriff’s deputies together on Tuesday pursued tips to locate Pinotti, and charging documents suggest sheriff’s detective Riordan is the lead on investigating the alleged crimes of the five young people.
Separately, Centralia Police Department Chief Bob Berg said he requested the actions of court security Officer Howard be investigated by the multi-county shooting review team. The police department said primary responsibility for that would be assumed by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.
It’s the third time this year a Centralia officer has fired at someone. The other two instances were fatal, one in which the suspect-victim held a knife and the other with a handgun.
They stemmed from incidents, separately, of an attempt to contact a “suspicious person” and with the the shoplifting of a burrito.
Officer Howard has a limited commission and handles courtroom security for the city. The retired California Highway Patrol officer has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the shooting investigation.
According to Pinotti’s criminal charging documents, Howard indicated that he fired his weapon in fear for his safety, because Pinotti’s vehicle was being used as a weapon against him.
Pinotti’s charging documents also indicate, that as Pinotti sped backwards on Maple Street heading west and away from the scene, his driver’s side window fell out of his car and was found laying on Maple Street.
In previous officer-involved shootings, Prosecutor Meyer has analyzed the findings from the multi-county shooting review team to make a decision about whether the officer’s use of deadly force was justified or criminal. In the most recent instance, Meyer said an officer must have probable cause to believe that the person “poses a threat of serious physical harm to the officer.”
The next step has been for the police chief to convene an internal use of force review board, to help him conclude if the officer followed department policy.
It appears Howard drew his weapon to prevent Pinotti from driving away.
One witness who said she watched the escape from where she was parked across Maple Street from Centralia Municipal Court said she was surprised to learn later a shot was fired. She didn’t hear one, Sarah Gee of Toledo said.
“The problem is, in no way, shape or time did the kid go forward,” Gee said. “The vehicle never moved forward.”
Gee said she was sitting in her car when she saw “the kid” pull away from the court security officer, through the glass doors of the municipal building.
The 25-year-old said she watched who she later learned was Pinotti run outside, at first into the street, then back to the sidewalk and then down the block to the north side of the Chronicle building, with the guard following.
Gee said she stepped out of her car and watched.
“I could hear a commotion, but I couldn’t see, because the first car blocked my view,” she said of the vehicle parked in front of the Subaru.
Next, she saw “the kid” at his driver’s door and the officer standing in the middle of the street, she said.
She described the officer as taking a “drawing stance” and pointing his gun at the car.
“I saw the kid speed down the middle of the road backwards,” she said. “And flip into the Rollerdrome lot and take off.”
Gee said she had given Jaelynn Pluard a ride to court that morning, and was just waiting for her outside. They left after 10 or 15 minutes, she said. She said she doesn’t know Pinotti.
For background, read “Five jailed in connection with Pinotti’s attempt to stay out of jail” from Thursday December 18, 2014, here
The view looking west on Maple Street, outside the Centralia municipal building toward the Chronicle.