Shot fired by officer, misdemeanor defendant flees court to avoid jail

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Sheriff’s deputies wait for a search warrant after finding suspect’s car at his rural Chehalis home.

Updated at 3:54 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – Police are looking for a 22-year-old man who sped away after a court security officer fired a round into his driver’s window this morning near Centralia City Hall.

Phillip A. Pinotti was being taken into custody at Centralia Municipal Court when he slipped away from the officer, ran down the street, got into a car and apparently drove toward the officer, according to the Centralia Police Department.

“We do not know if the individual was hit,” Police Chief Bob Berg said, meaning the escapee.


Phillip A. Pinotti

That took place just before 10 a.m.

At about 1 p.m., Pinotti’s sport utility vehicle was found in the garage of his residence on Clinton Road in Adna. But Pinotti was not there.

“There were two individuals at the house, we’re talking to them now,” Lewis County Undersheriff Rob Snaza said as deputies waited for a search warrant.

Pinotti is now wanted for first-degree assault and felony escape, according to Berg.

Berg said he asked the sheriff’s office to investigate because it involved one of his own employees.

Several patrol vehicles from both the sheriff’s office and the Centralia Police Department were at the scene on the 200 block of Clinton Road this afternoon. The roadway was blocked by a trooper, at state Route 6, about five miles west of Chehalis.

Snaza said he believes the home belongs to Pinotti’s parents, but they were not present.

“We’re continuing our investigation, and following leads,” Snaza said.

According to Berg, Pinotti came to court this morning for an arraignment on a charge of driving under the influence. The judge noticed he was wanted on a misdemeanor warrant for failing to appear in Chehalis Municipal Court, in connection with a third-degree theft, Berg said.

The judge ordered court security Officer Steve Howard to take Pinotti into custody for the Chehalis warrant, which he began to do just outside the courtroom, according to the chief.

“As officer Howard is handcuffing him, that’s when he bolts,” Berg said. “He’s running down the street, with officer Howard in pursuit.”

Berg said they ran west to the next block, and Pinotti got into a dark blue sport utility vehicle parked on Maple Street next to the The Chronicle.

“According to the officer, the individual gets in the car, starts it, puts the car in drive and comes toward the officer,” Berg said.

The court security officer advised him to stop, but he didn’t, according to police.

Officer Howard fired one shot, Berg said.

The vehicle backed down the street, into the drive at the Centralia Rollerdrome, and headed away.

“He drove away at a very high rate of speed,” Berg said. “The last I saw, he turned at the stop sign.”

The street was closed for about an hour, he said.

Berg said they found a casing but not the bullet, so they know the bullet entered the car. They believe it shattered the driver’s side window. It’s unknown if Pinotti was struck by the bullet or injured.

Officer Howard has a limited commission and handles courtroom security for the city, according to Berg. He is a retired California Highway Patrol officer.

Centralia Police Department spokesperson Officer Patty Finch indicates Howard has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.

The shooting incident will be investigated by the multi-county shooting review team with primary responsibility assumed by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, according to Finch.

It’s the third time a Centralia officer has fired at someone this year. The other two instances were fatal.

Berg was confident Pinotti would be located. His criminal history is not extensive or violent, he said.

“He knows we know who he is, I think he just made an extremely poor decision,” Berg said. “Fight or flight.”


Centralia Police Department Chief Bob Berg describes how the wanted man fled outside Centralia City Hall on West Maple Street this morning.


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20 Responses to “Shot fired by officer, misdemeanor defendant flees court to avoid jail”

  1. John says:

    I am curious how close the vehicle actually came to striking the officer. The fact that the side window was hit sounds disturbing to me. If he were fleeing and NOT a direct threat to the officer he should not have fired on him. Shooting at a fleeing felon for the sole purpose to effect an arrest, absence of a threat to the public is wrong. He wasn’t in custody for a violent felony. So unless he really was about to run this officer over there is a big problem with this use of force and citizens really should have a problem with this. It’s not like they didn’t know how to find this guy because they did.

  2. kill him says:

    Kill him. Was a misdemeanor charge and he was a hardened criminal. Should have been executed for that theft. Living the American dream.

  3. Noah says:

    I would believe the whole fight or flight theory if they didn’t have a picture of this guy in custody before. He has obviously been to the jail before right? And plus That officer is a pretty nice guy I have met him a few times at the municipal court, and I wasn’t there for court for me so maybe that’s why, he was so nice .But I think he treated everyone pretty well even took the extra time to deal with unscrupulous characters who don’t wanna empty their pockets and was nice about it not like other officers I have seen in this state he was very friendly but stern as well. Now I know that my vehicle is a deadly weapon and anytime I get behind the wheel I have to obey the law and yield to pedestrians and especially law enforcement so I’m surprised they aren’t calling it attempted murder on a police officer. He will be lucky he only gets his original misdemeanor charge and a felony escape charge.

  4. Bob says:

    I’m sorry but if you are escaping police (which is a felony) and you jump in a car (possibly stolen) and try to drive in the direction of an officer, you better expect to be shot. Everyone on here is too busy thinking with the mentality that these cops are trigger happy, wild west wannabe, hereos but look at the situation: Phil in this instance became completely irrational, irrational people make big mistakes sometimes those mistakes become deadly for them or others around them. He made a big mistake by trying to escape police and an even bigger one of driving at the officer.

    I knew Phil in high school. He had a good heart. He was a good kid, but also a troubled kid. If you keep making minor mistakes and break the law you will soon make a big mistake and end up in prison. If any of my friends were to drive at a police officer or try to escape police I would not defend them, I’m sorry. It’s a stupid idea.

  5. Byron says:

    None of you were there.

  6. Bill S says:

    It seems that the cops all over the country are trigger happy. This guy was wanted for a misdemeanor – that is not a death sentence penalty crime. The court security guy should have stopped at the front door of the courthouse.

    I don’t believe that “the guy tried to run him over” defense for a second. He should have gotten out from in front of his car. This is someone who’s ego was hurt because the guy got away from him. Bad shooting – good thing he didn’t kill the guy – there should be charges – but there won’t be in Lewis County.

  7. retired not retarded says:

    I can’t imagine why this pursuing officer, afoot and obviously way behind in the chase,would not back off once the man was already driving away. Our sheriff’s department could easily pick him up later. I think many will agree a weapon should never have been drawn. I would feel differently if he was a dangerous criminal. This court officer made a bad decision and so far it sounds that a lot more information needs to be disclosed.

  8. Byron says:

    His face could have and most likely was struck by flying glass from his window being shot out. That would explain why Mr. Pinotti’s face was bloodied. Also, Mr. Pinotti could have been driving right at the officer and swerved at the last moment (possibly due to seeing a handgun pointing at his face) which would explain why the shot was fired into the driver side window as opposed to the windshield. Mike is correct, if you didn’t witness the incident then you probably don’t have a clue. Folks will always seek a conspiracy when they have a hatred toward authorities. “Don’t matter” is a good example of someone who is focused on one detail at the expense of the whole story. He sees a cop who shot at a petty criminal who had committed a misdemeanor, not a man trying to run down a court officer while committing a felony flight from justice.

  9. RC says:

    My God! U guys! Go back & read the report. “misdemeanor” is why he was there in the first place, Felony is what was commited by escape. Stop drinking city water & you’ll be able to figure that out asap. And any time you “escape” & drive a car “At” or in the same direction of Law Enfc. at say… to the floor type Neg. thing, They concider that car a deadly weapon & have every right to use a side arm. Besides, reg. J walkers are being tazed,beat,shot,choacked by … mostly big chity types, police every day,10 Xs a day! These guys are real skiddy for some reason. best to keep your distance.

  10. Sandra H enderson says:

    Did anyone stop to think maybe the shot was fired to scare the guy that was why he shot at the passenger side he knew the guy wasn’t a hard core criminal and maybe he would give up

  11. class mate says:

    They’re saying he supposedly drove towards the officer. Doesn’t this come off as kind of vague. Its doesn’t say he tried to run the officer over. They just ant you to believe that. Sides why is his passenger window show , and not his windshield sine he was driving ” towards the officer” ?

  12. class mate says:

    ************I meant he was in court over misdemeanor charges for driving under influenc , and being arrested for FTA over a theft .. But when he ran today this created felony charge Mike.

  13. class mate says:

    They are not calling that a misdemeanor. He ran out of court today which she would have only been charged a misdemeanor. These charges are felony charges now Mike

  14. Mike says:

    IF the young man attempted to run the officer over with his vehicle as alleged, this is NOT a misdemeanor case. I don’t know about anyone else but if someone tried to run me down with a car, I would think my life was in danger. I think that might just justify using deadly force. Before people start shooting their mouth’s off about “renta cops” and “phony sheriffs boards”, they should wait until the investigation is completed.

  15. None says:

    Man oh Man!
    I think that’s a record for fastest “truth butchering” even for this website.

    Here in Lewis County, shooting review boards are conducted by different members from outside agencies. From what I’ve read here and in the newspapers, it sounds like a combination of Washington State Patrol and other agencies from outside the Chehalis area. While I know your now going to accuse them all of some sort of vast conspiracy, the point here is your lying when you say such shootings are dealt with “phony sherriffs boards.”

    While dealing with facts only can be not nearly as entertaining, it should be a standard for putting something in print.

  16. class mate says:

    What’s so sad is cops word is always taken. Next time this boy is seen he will probably be killed. People saying he tried to run over a cop? Or did the cop not move and try to be hero an jump out in front of the SUV? Do I believe what Phil has done is OK ? No absolutely not but, I do believe he panicked and was scared of going to jail which is no excuse but obviously he has a child mentality. He acted on impulse. I pray that the out come results in no harm to our officers nor Phil.
    Just a question I have why is none of the radios or news telling if there was blood found in the SUV ? Also they didn’t release names of his friends that were arrested .

  17. Don't matter says:

    There is no “Limited commission” he is law enforcement or he’s not. Centralia pd should be distancing themselves from this not offering a umbrella to this renta cop. The sherrifs office board of review has never found any wrong doing with any cop shootings that we have almost every year in Lewis co. Why? Because they don’t do peer review everything is justified or embellished. Let the citizens decide whether the shootings are justified not kingly prosecutors and phony sherriffs boards.

  18. Don't matter says:

    what a badass we got some regular wild Wild West heroes around here. Move over Clint eastwood. Botched arrest attempts are a big problem lol better just shoot them now. save the officer the embarrassment later. Better to hear “nice shot” than “you let him get away?” They would rather kill then have their phony ego damaged. Makes me sick. Over a Misdemeanor? get a life. Not take a life.

  19. Bra-bustn-babe says:

    @Martin Air, What were you in court for? Did you get charge for something and had to appear in court today for it, if so what are you being charged for? Just wondering.

  20. Martin Aires says:

    I was present at the courthouse during this incident, and personally overheard an officer’s voice come over another officer’s radio who happened to be standing near me. The voice stated “The suspects face appeared to be covered in blood”. Yet now I’m reading that they do not know whether or not the suspect was hit”? So who is the individual whom is not telling the truth? Does this certain Centralia Police Officer need an optometrist appointment or was this young man seriously injured due to actually being shot in his face or upper torso?

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