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Centralia court security officer who fired upon escapee quits job

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Updated at 1:29 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Centralia Municipal Court Security Officer Stephen Howard submitted his resignation effective today, just days after Police Chief Bob Berg issued his report indicating Howard’s use of deadly force on a person fleeing detainment on a misdemeanor warrant was inappropriate.

Berg’s findings released Thursday regarding the mid-December incident made clear Howard should not have unholstered his gun, nor even left his post to pursue the 22-year-old Adna man.

Phillip Pinotti was struck by the broken glass from his car window, but not by the bullet that was later found on his passenger seat.

In a news release distributed this morning, Berg states the resignation means any personnel issues regarding the shooting are now closed.

The chief noted that he appreciates Howard’s service to the community and his long term commitment to the law enforcement profession.

“In terms of moving forward, there are lessons the department has learned regarding policies and procedures as well as training and documentation for individuals assigned to this duty,” Berg stated.

Howard, a retired California Highway Patrol officer, had been employed by the city for just short of four months when the incident occurred. He worked one day each week, as a limited commission officer.

A review by the county prosecutor found Howard’s firing of his weapon was not unlawful, but an internal shooting review board concluded it was a violation of department policy.

Howard said he fired his gun once because he thought Pinotti was trying to run him down with his car, but the prosecutor, the shooting review board and the police chief, in varying degrees, indicated they didn’t believe that’s what happened.

It was the morning of Dec. 16 when Pinotti slipped away as Howard was handcuffing him in Centralia Municipal Court and ran to the next block where his car was parked on Maple Street, got inside of it and locked his door. Witnesses described Howard striking the window with his gun, something Howard said he didn’t recall happening.

Chief Berg wrote in his determination last week, that based on the physical evidence, such as the trajectory of the bullet and statements from witnesses, it was quite possible the gun’s discharge was accidental.

Howard was put on administrative leave while the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office investigated the shooting. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer issued his conclusions on Jan. 7.

The internal review board – called both the Use of Force Review Board and the Shooting Review Board – met on Jan. 13 and forwarded its recommendations to the police chief on Jan. 23.

Berg said Howard returned to work on Jan. 20, following the completion of the criminal investigation by the prosecuting attorney.

Pinotti pleaded guilty to third-degree escape and two related misdemeanors on Jan. 14.

Last Thursday when the chief issued his determinations about Howard’s actions, he noted a personnel decision would be made after a discussion with Howard; it’s not clear whether the two talked before Howard submitted his resignation.

Berg says the department will begin the process of selecting a replacement for the position.

In his short statement, Berg included:

“It is paramount that the public we serve have confidence in their police department, both in terms of the actions we take in performing our duties, as well as the manner in which those actions are reviewed.”

For background, read “Chief Berg: Shooting at fleeing man was outside police department policy” from Thursday February 5, 2015, here

Chief Berg: Shooting at fleeing man was outside police department policy

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Updated at 9:24p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Centralia Police Chief Bob Berg has concluded it was a violation of department policy when Centralia Municipal Court Security Officer Steve Howard fired upon the 22-year-old Adna man who fled an attempted misdemeanor warrant arrest in December.

In his findings released this afternoon, Berg makes clear it was not reasonable to pursue Phillip Pinotti, or for Howard to unholster his weapon.

Howard said he fired his gun once because he thought Pinotti was trying to run him down with his car.


Centralia Municipal Court

Berg writes that given Howard’s self-described position in relation to the car, it would have impossible for the vehicle to strike him.

Whether Howard keeps his job hasn’t yet been decided, according to the chief.

Berg made his determinations following receiving the  recommendations of an internal shooting review board. The Lewis County prosecutor already found last month that Howard’s actions were legal under the laws of the state of Washington.

The shooting review board concluded: “While Officer Howard’s discharge of his weapon may have been lawful, the board found that it was not an appropriate application of force.”

“Further it was clear that reasonable alternatives to the use of deadly force existed,” the board wrote.

Berg agreed, and wrote the use of deadly force by a police officer is one of the most serious and potentially life-changing events an officer will ever face. That is why departmental policies are much more restrictive than state law, he wrote.

It was the morning of Dec. 16 when the Adna man was being handcuffed at the end of a hearing in Centralia Municipal Court.

Pinotti was there for arraignment on a charge of driving under the influence, and the judge had seen he was wanted on a misdemeanor warrant for failing to appear in Chehalis Municipal Court, in connection with a third-degree theft and ordered he be taken into custody.

Pinotti slipped away from the court security officer and ran to the next block where his car was parked on Maple Street.

The accounts of what happened next come from court documents in which Pinotti was initially charged with first-degree assault – although that charge was subsequently dropped – and also from Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer’s analysis of Howard’s actions.

Officer Howard gave repeated commands to Pinotti to stop and surrender. Pinotti got into his car, and locked the door.

The car either lurched forward or it didn’t and Pinotti put the vehicle in reverse and backed down Maple Street at a high rate of speed. Only Officer Howard spoke of the car lurching forward.

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.

Howard didn’t recall doing that; he stated he tried to open the door with his left hand, and as the vehicle began to move, he stepped back and fired, according to Berg.

Chief Berg wrote that based on the physical evidence, such as the trajectory of the bullet and statements from witnesses, it’s quite possible the gun’s discharge was accidental.

“This is not to question the veracity of Officer Howard,” Berg wrote. “Rather it is an acknowledgement that memory is not exact as evidenced by varying accounts of the incident from the perspective of witnesses interviewed.”

Chief Berg went on to describe how an officer striking a vehicle’s window with a gun is dangerous and inappropriate, as well as how trying to open a car door with one hand while holding a firearm in the other is also a questionable tactic.

The shooting review board also recommended to the chief a modification to an existing policy regarding foot pursuits, with which the chief agreed.

Berg wrote: “(W)hile it would seem to be a matter of common sense, there is no language to specifically indicate that officers should consider the seriousness of the predicate offense in deciding whether to initiate or continue a foot pursuit.”

Howard has a limited commission, handling courtroom security for the city. The retired California Highway Patrol officer had been working for the city for just short of four months when the incident occurred.

Current Centralia Police Department policy says whenever an individual is remanded into custody, the court security officer should whenever possible call upon another officer to do that.

Berg indicated he would modify that to expressly prohibit the court security officer from leaving the post to pursue an escapee.

The chief also wrote that Howard’s training for his assigned duties was sufficient, but acknowledged the sessions should be formally documented and made part of the training file.

He also wrote the court security officer ought to be required to complete the same written examination on use of force policies as the regular police officers.

In his summary, Berg noted Pinotti was a known misdemeanor suspect who posed no immediate threat to the officer or the public.

While stating it would have been impossible for the vehicle to strike Howard when it moved, Berg wrote that Howard’s belief, was probably sincere, but was not objectively reasonable.

Berg ended by writing the final disposition of the incident as a personnel matter would be determined after discussion with Officer Howard.

Pinotti wasn’t injured by the bullet that was found on the passenger seat of his car, but his face was cut from glass fragments.

He was found the following day hiding at a friend’s residence in Chehalis, and charged with first-degree assault – for allegedly trying to run down Howard – and with third-degree escape and with tampering with evidence, for having friends hide his car.

Elected Prosecutor Meyer subsequently dropped the first-degree assault charge, concluding there was no intent on the part of Pinotti to injure the officer, he was only trying to get away.

Pinotti pleaded guilty last month to three misdemeanors in connection with the case. He has since also pleaded guilty to two felony drug charges that arose after the shooting.

Read Berg’s findings and determinations here


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

Wrong “gang aggravator” gets Centralia man new, shorter sentence

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An appeals court reversed an exceptionally long sentence given to a purported Centralia gang member and remanded the case for resentencing within the standard range.

Joshua Rhoades was convicted by a jury of second-degree assault in the spring of 2013 for fight on a Centralia street in which a 17-year-old boy was knocked unconscious. Rhoades, then 32 years old, was given nearly the 10 year maximum, allowed because of a special gang finding by the jury.


Joshua Rhoades at 2013 sentencing hearing.

The opinion issued yesterday states that prosecutors did not provide constitutionally sufficient notice of their intent to seek an exceptional sentence.

The standard sentencing range is 65 to 82 months.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler imposed  10 months less than 10 years, and ordered 10 months of supervision by the state Department of Corrections upon Rhoades’ release.

The three-member panel of the Court of Appeals Division II found the language regarding the aggravating circumstance alleged in the charging document was different from that given to the jury in their instructions.

“The Washington and federal constitutions entitle criminal defendants to adequate notice of the nature and cause of the accusation, so that they may prepare a defense,” wrote Judge Thomas R Bjorgen who authored the opinion.

Rhoades and his appeals lawyer contended the court submitted to the jury an aggravating circumstance instruction, that Rhoades committed the crime with the intent to benefit a criminal street gangs, while the circumstance alleged in the information was that Rhoades committed the crime to obtain or maintain membership or advance his position in an identifiable group.

“On its face, then, the substitution of one aggravator for the other resulted in inadequate notice that likely prejudiced the defendant’s ability to prepare a defense,” Bjorgen wrote.

Judges Bradley A. Maxa and Rich Melnick concurred.

Prosecutors said during his trial that Rhoades jumped out of a car, flashing gang signs and asking the teen and his two friends if they knew who he was and if they were  rival “Nortenos”. The teenager Dustin McLean testified Rhoades held a closed knife in his fist as he struck him. Prosecutors told the jury Rhoades was well known to Centralia police, who said he was the leader of the LVL .

LVL stands for Little Valley Locos or Little Valley Lokotes a gang locally made up mostly of individuals who grew up in Centralia when it was particularly active in the summer of 2007. Police say Rhoades goes by the street name Spooker.

In his appeal, Rhoades submitted several additional claims for review which the appeals judges either rejected or declined to review.

The appeals document shows he is housed at Clallam Bay Corrections Center.

Rhoades was represented at trial by Chehalis defense attorney Chris Baum, a former deputy prosecutor. The state’s case was presented by Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Joely O’Rourke who is now a defense attorney.

For background, read “Centralia’s “Spooker” gets extra prison time for assault due to gang affiliation from Wednesday July 10, 2013, here

Grand Mound: Five hour standoff results in arrests for stolen vehicle, warrants

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015


By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Two Thurston County men were taken into custody after an hours long standoff in Grand Mound today that began with a stolen vehicle spotted in a driveway by a deputy.

Steven D Pierce, 37, was arrested on a misdemeanor warrant out of Centralia Municipal Court and has been booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to authorities.

Harry I. Richcreek, 42, was booked into the Thurston County Jail for possession of a stolen vehicle, and was said to have a felony warrant out of California for auto theft, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.

The incident began about 8:30 a.m. when a sheriff’s deputy responded to a call from a neighbor who reported seeing activity throughout the night at a home thought to be vacant, according to the sheriff’s office.

When the deputy arrived to the 19100 block of Apricot Street Southwest, he saw a man get out of a vehicle and go inside and a check on its license plate showed it was stolen in Lacey on Saturday, according to Lt. Cliff Ziesemer.

Ziesemer said in a news release that other deputies responded to assist, and after numerous attempts to contact the people inside, two women came out.

The sheriff’s office learned the man was wanted for car theft in California, was armed with a pistol, and a second man was with him, according to Ziesemer. They also learned the women were a mother and daughter who rented the home, and the men were friends of the daughter, according to Ziesemer.

“Repeated attempts were made to have the two remaining people exit the house but (we) received no response,” Ziesemer stated.

The Thurston County SWAT team was activated, and after many more tries to coax the men out, the team made entry at about 1:25 p.m., the lieutenant wrote.

Pierce was found hiding in a bedroom and Richcreek refused to come out from the crawl space beneath the mobile hime, according to the sheriff’s office. Ziesemer said a police dog went in and forced him out.

Richcreek ended up with bite wounds to his buttocks, and although he struck the police dog Rex while they tussled, the dog was unhurt, according to Ziesemer.

No gun was located, he said.

Numerous Centralia College athletes suspended after underage party

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Twenty-one Centralia College athletes are suspended for the season and seven others received lesser punishments for an off-campus alcohol and marijuana party that ended with a fight and numerous arrests for underage drinking.

Centralia police responded to a report of a large fight in front of a home on Earl Street about 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 24 and subsequently arrested 40 people between the ages of 18 and 20 for minor in possession and/or consumption of alcohol.

Police said several student athletes hosted the gathering for their peers; the hosts were under 21 and had been drinking. Two 17-year-old girls got in trouble for the same offense, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Centralia College Athletic Director Bob Peters said today the student athletes were disciplined based on their code of conduct and team rules.

The suspensions hit the men’s baseball team especially hard with 11 of them out for the season, according to Peters.

“If this had happened a month from now, that would have been half the team,” he said.

Typically this time of year, they still have 30 to 35 individuals in baseball, and haven’t yet finalized their roster, he said.

In a news release issued on Friday, the college noted its investigation revealed 28 of their athletes attended the party, representing five different athletic programs but not all consumed alcohol. One of the two individuals who got into the fight was a college athlete, according to the news release.

The coaches recommended the discipline and the college administration concurred.

The full season suspensions also included five from the women’s softball team, two from the women’s volleyball team, one from the women’s basketball team and two from the men’s basketball team, according to Peters.

Seven other athletes were given suspensions of at least one game and up to 10 games, according to the college.

Robert Cox, vice president of student services, indicated they take situations like this very seriously.

“We hope that during the time of the suspensions the athletes will move ahead with a renewed focus on academics, athletics, and most importantly positive citizenship,” Cox stated.

All 28 will be required to complete an alcohol assessment, participate in alcohol abatement education provided by the college and engage in 10 hours of community service, according to Peters. He said they will ask the other athletes in the programs to participate, but it won’t be mandatory.

College President Robert Frost called it an unfortunate incident and told his colleagues the students deserved praise for their honesty and for taking immediate responsibility.

Centralia police the night after the party arrested a 20-year-old Chehalis resident for second-degree assault in connection with the fight, alleging he punched the other male in the face several times, breaking his nose. The suspect was booked into the Lewis County Jail but released the following day with no charges filed.

For background, read “Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup – COLLEGE PARTY ENDS WITH NUMEROUS ARRESTS from Sunday January 25, 2015, here

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Sunday, February 1st, 2015


• A 40-year-old Centralia resident was arrested for possession of methamphetamine after contact with police about 8:20 p.m. yesterday at the 100 block of East Fourth Street. Jason D. Bush was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, trespass, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license, an 18-year-old allowing a 14-year-old to drive a vehicle … and more.

Chase bank robbery suspect facing possible third strike, pleads not guilty

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Larry “Skip” Bailey appears in Lewis County Superior Court today for his arraignment.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The suspected bicycling bank robber pleaded not guilty today in connection with a seemingly quiet holdup in Chehalis, that took a stocking-capped man dressed in numerous layers of clothing inside a bank vault with two employees.

Larry Gene Bailey is charged in Lewis County Superior Court with first-degree robbery and possession of methamphetamine.

Exactly how much the robber nearly got away with is unclear. Charging documents say he was handed roughly $40,000 but police were waiting for Chase Bank to do an inventory. When Bailey was apprehended about 45 minutes later less than a mile from the bank, officers say they found $36,000 tucked inside a pinkish-purple floral print cloth bag in his backpack.

Police say the 52-year-old ditched a BMX-style bicycle on the West Street overpass and tried to get through two fences adjacent to Interstate 5 but was grabbed by a pursuing sheriff’s deputy.

That was on Monday. On Tuesday, authorities told a judge he was suicidal  and wouldn’t willingly be brought up to a courtroom for his first appearance.

“Skip” Bailey’s bail was set yesterday at $250,000, with prosecutors noting no apparent ties to the community and his history.

Prosecutors say they believe he has four federal convictions for bank robbery, in Kansas, Eastern Washington and Western Washington.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead said today they are still trying to confirm those. The earliest one is 1991.

According to Halstead, he also has two first-degree theft convictions from 2005, for which he was sentenced to 10 years.

Bailey’s federal probation officer has informed them he is in violation of his probation, according to court documents.

Chehalis police say Bailey only arrived to the area a few months ago. Police Department spokesperson Linda Bailey said he shows an address on the 1500 block of Bishop Road.

The address is for a church, not far from an encampment next to Interstate 5 at LaBree Road that somehow caught fire in November, destroying a tent and all the belongings of a 52-year-old homeless person named Larry G. Bailey.

Chehalis police’s Bailey, no relation, said she thinks it is the same man.

Defense attorney Joely O’Rourke who represented Bailey initially yesterday said he is not employed and has no stable residence.

First-degree robbery has a maximum penalty of life in prison. If convicted and the state can confirm the prior robbery convictions, that would classify Bailey as a persistent offender – be a third strike – making him subject to mandatory life imprisonment without parole, according to O’Rourke.

According to charging documents, when police arrived to Chase Bank following the 10:47 a.m. call, the robber was gone.

The manger told officers he implied he had a gun, reaching into his coat pocket, telling her he had two strikes and had nothing to lose, so she needed to follow his instructions. A second teller was summoned because it takes two employees to get inside the vault, according to documents.

The charging documents offer the following details:

Officers were given photos uploaded from the bank security system, to use as they searched the immediate area.

A police dog brought to the scene led them to the nearby Rite Aid store where some discarded clothing was found that fit the description provided by bank employees. Police located more clothing in an alley between Southwest Fourth and Fifth streets.

Law enforcement officers from Chehalis, Centralia and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office had set up containment and continued to search, while three nearby schools were alerted for lockdowns.

It was about 11:30 a.m. when an individual matching the suspect’s description was seen traveling on a bicycle near the West Street overpass by a helpful witness, who pointed a deputy in his direction, according to police.

Bailey had a meth pipe in his possession, leading to the drug charge, according to police.

Bailey qualified for a court appointed attorney, who sat with him in the courtroom this morning as he entered his pleas.

Chehalis lawyer Chris Baum said he doesn’t know much about the man he is representing, and what he does know is protected by professional confidentiality.

“I just got the case yesterday afternoon, and I saw him and spoke with him this morning,” Baum said. “I will sort it out after I get the police reports.”

An Associated Press news story from The Seattle Times in 1991 reports upon a 28-year-old Everett man named Larry Gene Bailey who was indicted for allegedly holding up three Spokane banks that summer, and was wanted in Kansas for another bank robbery.

He was arrested by a trooper for a traffic violation, and a large amount of cash was found stuffed in his clothing, according to the news story.

In that case, the man was riding a motorcycle.

Bailey’s trial was put on the court’s schedule for the week of March 23.

For background, read “Suspected Chase Bank robber believed to have numerous similar convictions” from Tuesday January 27, 2015 at 8:59 p.m., here

Phillip Pinotti admits to heroin delivery, possession

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 22-year-old Adna resident whose high profile escape from an attempted misdemeanor arrest at Centralia Municipal Court in December was followed by a drug arrest pleaded guilty today to two felonies.

Phillip A. Pinotti was out on bail from his escape incident when Centralia police arrested him two and a half weeks ago for twice having heroin and once selling it.


Phillip Pinotti

One case was from last August that was brought to the attention of prosecutors after the escape. The other involved newer incidents.

Lewis County prosecutors in a plea deal they said got both sides something they wanted, reduced the charge from August and dropped one of two counts in the more recent case.

“It seems like the quantity alone is not enough for possession with intent (to deliver),” Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher told the judge this morning.

Meagher was referring to mid-August when police had him and Zachary J. Maurer under surveillance as they went to Longview to allegedly purchase heroin and subsequently impounded their vehicle finding drugs.

Pinotti’s responses were simply “Guilty, your honor,” when queried by the judge on each count.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt said he found Pinotti guilty as charged, of possession of heroin in August and of delivery of heroin on Dec. 20.

Pinotti, whose lives with his parents in Adna, drew gunfire from a court security officer on Dec. 16 when he ran away as he was being taken into custody and jumped in his car.

He was there for arraignment on a charge of driving under the influence, and the judge saw he was wanted on a misdemeanor warrant for failing to appear in Chehalis Municipal Court, in connection with a third-degree theft.

Two weeks ago, Pinotti pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors for the incidents of that day; obstructing, third-degree escape and tampering with evidence. He was given a sentence of 364 days, with all but six days suspended, getting credit for time already served.

Court Security Officer Steve Howard said he fired one shot because Pinotti tried to hit him with his car, but the Lewis County prosecutor concluded Pinotti wasn’t trying to run him run down.

Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer cleared Howard of criminal wrongdoing in the shooting, but Centralia Police Department Chief Bob Berg’s decision if Howard’s actions were in line with department policies is still pending.

Defense attorney Don Blair told the judge today he wanted to set the sentencing hearing for later, because his client has a misdemeanor sentencing coming up, and if he gets sent to prison, he would miss that.

Pinotti’s sentencing for the drug cases is scheduled for Feb. 11. He faces a standard sentencing range of between 12 and 20 months, according to Meagher.

Before the events of Dec. 16, Pinotti had one misdemeanor on his record, from 2009.

For background, read:

• “Summertime heroin case proceeds for two defendants” from Tuesday January 20, 2015, here

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

Former jail sergeant admits three felonies, gets immunity regarding inmate treatment

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A fired Lewis County Jail guard was given a 90-day jail sentence today following a plea deal in which local prosecutors agreed not to file any charges of assault that could have occurred during his time as a corrections officer.

Trevor S. Smith was terminated last summer for mistreatment of two inmates, conduct his superiors wrote “shocks the conscience and could be viewed as violating basic civil rights possessed by all human beings regardless of status.”

Smith was arrested about two weeks later at his home in Chehalis for something unrelated however, for allegedly snooping into secure jail computer records. Computer trespass is a class C felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Smith was hired at the sheriff’s office in 2004 and promoted to jail sergeant in 2011. The inmate issues were investigated internally.

His June 27, 2014 termination letter and related documents show Smith was disciplined for directing that an inmate be kept in a restraint chair for approximately twelve hours without food, water or restroom breaks.

Also, after Smith directed the discharge of pepper spray into the closed cell of an inmate with mental health issues, the inmate was not offered a wet towel, a shower or any decontamination for more than five hours; the cell had no running water, according to the sheriff’s office.

Mark McClain is a former Lewis County deputy prosecutor who was elected in November as Pacific County prosecutor, and returned today for Smith’s hearing.

As part of the deal, prosecutors dropped two of the five counts of computer trespass, McClain said.

McClain said the sheriff was involved in the resolution of the case, and went along with it, acknowledging “the good things Mr. Smith did for the sheriff’s office.”

McClain and Defense attorney Shane O’Rourke said the state agreed not to pursue any collateral investigations as part of the plea agreement.

McClain asked the judge to lock Smith up for 90 days.

O’Rourke recommended his client be allowed to serve his time on electronic home monitoring.

O’Rourke said Smith qualified for several reasons. He’s working, for UPS; he’s going to school, getting an online MBA; and has partial custody of his children.

O’Rourke said his client doesn’t believe there was excessive force even in the civil context or the context of his profession.

As to the reason prosecutors would agree to not pursue criminal charges:

“If I was going to speculate, it would be because it doesn’t amount to criminal assault,” O’Rourke said.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt ordered Smith to begin 90 days on home monitoring by Feb. 17.  He was given credit for one day, for the roughly 28 hours he spent in jail when he was arrested, according to his lawyer.

Smith declined a request by a reporter for comment after the hearing.

For background, read:

• “Lewis County Jail sergeant let go for mistreating inmates, then arrested for computer snooping at work ” from Wednesday July 16, 2014, here

• “Sheriff’s Office: Fired corrections officer allowed inmates to suffer” from Friday July 18, 2014, here

Centralia logger killed near Oakville leaves behind close-knit crew

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

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.

There were seven work-related logging deaths in Washington state last year.

Four of them occurred in Lewis County.

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.

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

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.