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Green Hill School student-inmate flees captivity while in Seattle

Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 6:56 pm

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Green Hill School inmate escaped yesterday while on a field trip for his graduation ceremony in Seattle.

The 18-year-old was one of three students who traveled to the West Seattle campus of South Seattle Community College following the successful completion of a 14-week vocational program, according to a spokesperson from the state Department of Social and Health Services.

Mindy Chambers said it was about 10 a.m., before the event began, and he was on the phone purportedly with his mother, trying to give her directions to get there.

“They were standing outside and a gray Volvo pulled up,” Chambers said. “He got in the backseat, laid down and it sped off.”

Staff called 911 immediately to report the escape, she said.

Green Hill School in Chehalis is a medium and maximum secure facility for older juvenile boys incarcerated for felonies and operated by the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration, under the state Department of Social and Health Services.

Chambers wouldn’t disclose his name, hometown or the crime he was locked up for citing policies for the juvenile institution.

A warrant for his arrest for escape has been issued, she said.

The young man had already received his certificate of completion from the program – called the Job Readiness to Employment Project – and was set to be released from Green Hill sometime between August and November, according to Chambers. The length of time he’d been incarcerated wasn’t immediately available.

The trio were accompanied by two security officers and a program manager.

He was so close to becoming employed, and now things have changed, she said.

“Our next step would have been to place him with an employer,” Chambers said. “Instead he made the decision he did, and now he will be charged as an adult.”

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 12:38 pm

SCUFFLE AT STORE

• Centralia police say a suspected shoplifter fought with security and then fled the 500 block of South Tower Avenue yesterday afternoon but was subsequently located inside an apartment a short distance away. Officers called about 4:20 p.m. learned the shopper had tried to steal items by placing them inside a bag of already purchased goods, according to the Centralia Police Department. Genaro M. Rivas Jr., 23 of Chehalis, was arrested for second-degree robbery and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police.

MANHUNT FOR SHED THEFT SUSPECT

• Deputies spent more than an hour searching a wooded area around the 100 block of Sherwood Avenue Cispus yesterday after a man they were attempting to arrest ran out his back door at about 12:30 p.m. According to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, surveillance video captured images of 31-year-old Jesse G. Bailey last Wednesday when two gas cans and a saw were stolen from a storage shed on Churchel Road. Deputies stopped looking for Bailey but hid nearby and shortly after 6:15 p.m., heard someone back inside the home and contacted Bailey, according to the sheriff’s office. Some items were returned and others found in an associate’s vehicle the night before, with other property which deputies may be stolen, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. He was arrested for second-degree burglary and several outstanding warrants and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to Brown.

BREAK-IN CENTRALIA

• Centralia police were called about 10:20 p.m. yesterday after a resident returned home to the 1000 block of J Street to find she had been burglarized. Missing were a laptop computer and jewelry amounting to about $2,000, according to the Centralia Police Department. It wasn’t immediately obvious how anyone got inside the home, according to police.

FRAUD

• Centralia police took a report from a 69-year-old jail inmate yesterday about his missing debit card which was stolen and used at various locations around town. The Hollywood, Calif. man has been at the Lewis County Jail since early Tuesday morning for allegedly punching an emergency room nurse in the stomach. Police Sgt. Stacy Denham said it’s not clear how much the thief has charged onto the bank card, as the victim was so intoxicated he was having trouble remembering places he himself had used it. They have no suspects yet, Denham said.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, protection order violation, driving with suspended license, misdemeanor assault; responses for dispute, misdemeanor theft, collisions on city street; complaint of fireworks at 11:24 p.m. and can’t sleep … and more.

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News brief: Fireworks spark lands in stored kindling

Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 11:29 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A bit of a breeze and some pre-holiday fireworks combined are probably behind a fire that ignited in an Adna area wood shed last night.

Firefighters called about 11:10 p.m. to the 100 block of Bunker Creek Road found the homeowner had already put out the flames but crews stayed on the scene about 45 minutes removing the firewood stored in the small building, according to Lewis County Fire District 6.

Fire Chief Tim Kinder said the residents were using fireworks away from the shed, but he suspects an ember may have been carried by the wind into the kindling box.

Last year around the state there were 102 fireworks related fires reported to the state fire marshal’s office, most of which occurred on July 4. There were also 239 injuries, the majority caused by safe and sane fireworks purchased from a Washington State licensed fireworks stand.

The law says folks can light off their fireworks as early as 9 o’clock in the morning and can continue until 11 p.m., except on the Fourth of July itself it’s okay to keep going until midnight. Saturday is the last day they are permitted by law until New Year’s Eve.

Using or possessing fireworks is prohibited in national forests such as in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. They are not allowed to be discharged on public lands managed by the state Department of Natural Resources.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reminds the public that possession of illegal fireworks can bring a gross misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine as much as $5,000.

The sheriff’s office offers the following advice to stay safe:

• Only use legal fireworks.
• Have responsible adult present to supervise the use of fireworks.
• Have a fire extinguisher handy in case of a fire.
• Do not allow young children to discharge fireworks.
• Never point or throw a firework at anyone.
• Never hold or throw a firework – light it and back away quickly.
• Stay away from fireworks that failed to ignite.
• Take your neighbors and their property into consideration when lighting fireworks.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 7:11 pm
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Firefighters from three departments save the house but a barn-shop building on Hopp Road is mostly ruined by fire. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Fire District 2

FIRE FIGHT IN TOLEDO

• More than two dozen firefighters battled a blaze last night about a mile east of Toledo that started in a small shop attached to a large barn building and threatened a house. “The vinyl siding on the house was melting and the exterior had started to char,” Lewis County Fire District 2 Chief Grant Wiltbank said. “It was one of the most aggressive fire fights that we’ve had that I can remember in a few years.” Numerous calls came in to 911 about 8:40 p.m., with smoke seen from as far away as Vader, he said. It happened on the 100 block of Hopp Road. One firefighter was treated at the scene for possible heat exhaustion, according to Wiltbank. The metal roofed wood building was approximately 40 feet by 80- feet and is probably a total loss, but much of the contents of equipment and tools are probably salvageable, he said. The chief estimated another two minutes and the house would have caught on fire. The cause is under investigation.

ALL FOR A POP

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office says several thousand dollars in damage was done when someone broke into White Pass High School by breaking a door window and broke into a vending machine to steal several sodas and smashing security cameras while there. A deputy called yesterday morning to the 500 block of Silverbrook Road in Randle found that it occurred about 11 p.m. the night before and the culprits were two teenage boys dressed in dark clothing, according to the sheriff’s office. One of them appeared to have cut himself on the broken vending machine and may have a cut on his hand, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. Some evidence was collected at the scene, Brown said.

ASSAULTS

• A 17-year-old boy was arrested yesterday afternoon in connection with a report of an attempted rape of a girl known to him occurring yesterday at the 1200 block of Alder Street, according to the Centralia Police Department. He was booked into the Lewis County Juvenile Justice Center, according to police.

• Centralia police are investigating a report about 11:40 p.m. yesterday by a female that her ex-boyfriend hit her in the head and then fled. There is a current protection order between the two, according to police.

THEFT

• Chehalis police were called about 9:30 a.m. yesterday regarding a vehicle prowl on Northwest North Street.

SMALL FIRE

• Firefighters called just before 10 p.m. yesterday to a home on the 100 block of Joppish Road outside Centralia found an electrical fire in a bathroom ceiling exhaust fan. The fire was quickly extinguished and damage was limited to the fan and the fan housing, according to Riverside Fire Authority. There was some light smoke in the residence but there was no extension to the rest of the home or other damage, according to the fire department.

WRECKS

• Centralia police said an officer responded just after 5 p.m. yesterday to a collision between a vehicle and a bicycle at Main and Yew streets. The cyclist was left with minor scrapes and bruises and the driver was cited for failing to yield the right of way as well as no insurance, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A pair of Eugene, Ore. residents were hospitalized yesterday after the big rig they were traveling in rolled onto its side spilling a load of telephone poles across all lanes of southbound Interstate 5 north of Centralia. Troopers called about 10:45 a.m. concluded Nathan A. Taylor, 26, had driven onto the shoulder and then overcorrected causing him to lose control of the Freightliner tractor with a flatbed log trailer. A detour was put into place, but the roadway wasn’t entirely re-opened until 2:30 p.m., according to the Washington State Patrol. Both were taken to Providence Centralia Hospital and the passenger, Ashley N. Webber, 23, has been released but Taylor was treated and then transferred to another hospital, according to a hospital spokesperson.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for driving under the influence, driving with suspended license, driving with no license; responses for suspicious circumstances, possible fraud, unruly teenage girl, collisions on city street … and more.

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A traffic camera just south of milepost 88 captures an image of the overturned semi truck and its telephone poles in the southbound lanes.

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Coroner releases name of police shooting victim

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 11:59 am
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Detectives from outside police agencies examine items at the scene in the Anchor Bank parking lot on Sunday.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The 43-year-old Centralia man shot to death by a police officer following a shoplifting incident has been identified as Paul M. Edmundson, an individual who lived at the Pepper Tree Motel and RV Park.

Edmundson died at the scene on Sunday morning, in a bank parking lot just south of the Chevron service station on the corner of South Tower Avenue and East Cherry Street.

Police say he was combative as Officer Ruben Ramirez and his K-9 partner tried to detain him, and he pulled a handgun from his pocket.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod reports Edmundson died of massive internal bleeding from a bullet wound to his chest.

It’s the second time this year a Centralia officer has shot and killed someone. In February, an officer fired eight shots at a 48-year-old Westport man staying at the Lakeview Inn after a night time encounter in a nearby residential neighborhood when the man refused to drop a knife.

That use of deadly force was found by the prosecutor to be justified.

The Centralia Police Department this morning revealed Edmundson was wanted in connection with an assault in which he allegedly shoved some type of sharp object though the eyelid of a neighbor during a disagreement on Friday at the Pepper Tree Motel. Responding officers to the 1200 block of Alder Street didn’t know what the object was and still don’t, according to Officer John Panco.

Panco said Edmundson thought his 50-year-old neighbor owed him a favor because he’d bought him some beer a few days earlier, and he wanted him to drive him around town instead of leaving that day.

The victim’s eye was not permanently damaged, according to Panco.

Panco said he didn’t know if Officer Ramirez knew that’s the man he’d come across when responding to the 10 a.m. call on Sunday about a stolen burrito, but just wanted to get the information out there.

“He was the one who took the report of the assault, so whether he recognized him or not, I do not know,” Panco said. “That will come out in the investigation.”

The details of what preceded the Sunday morning shooting in Anchor Bank’s parking lot are limited, as Centralia police arrived as backup after a struggle ensued between Ramirez and Edmundson but officers instead worked to preserve the scene of the shooting and turned the entire case over to a group of detectives from outside police agencies.

Panco said this morning a 44-year-old woman, Michele Milligan, who was present – and said to be screaming at Ramirez as the two men fought – was taken into custody for a warrant.

A gas station clerk from across the street who called 911 said she watched for what seemed like 10 minutes of the officer trying to handcuff the man.

Nicole Escalante described seeing the man on the ground, and repeatedly trying to get up, and Ramirez telling him to stay down and at one point punching him.

Escalante said she stood on the sidewalk in front of her convenience store talking with 911 and saw the man reach for something, and saw Ramirez draw his weapon and fire one shot.

Ramirez, a 15-year veteran of the police department and a member of its SWAT team, was placed on paid leave. Police Chief Bob Berg says the Region Three Critical Incident Investigation Team is expected to complete its work within the next three weeks.

An internal use-of-force review board will convene after that, according to Berg.
•••

For background, read “Stolen burrito leads to fatal shooting in Centralia” from Sunday June 29, 2014, here

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News brief: Tumwater grocery robbery pinned on Chehalis pair

Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at 11:43 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Chehalis couple was arrested allegedly fleeing an armed robbery of a store in Tumwater last night.

Police say a male entered the Southend Grocery on the 6400 block of Capitol Boulevard Southeast and pointed a firearm at a 46-year-old woman who works there and demanded cash.

Officers called at 9:52 p.m. learned the male left on foot, but got into a vehicle driven by a female. The suspects were stopped on southbound Interstate 5 and the male ran away but was subsequently found in a wooded area, according to the Tumwater Police Department.

The two were arrested for first-degree robbery and booked into the Nisqually Jail, according to Tumwater detective Jennifer Kolb.

They are identified as husband and wife Gary Bafford, 54, and Genaveve Webb, 40, both of Chehalis.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at 10:30 am

ESCAPE BY BOAT

• A get together at Lake Mayfield ended yesterday when a 40-year-old man and other family members including children got into a boat and retreated to the middle of the lake to get away from a drunken, belligerent and threatening relative, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said 51-year-old James P. Sauter, of Chehalis, had been drinking all day and called someone a name. When the 40-year-old stepped in to defend his sister, Sauter became enraged and tried to get him to fight, Brown said. All but Sauter left the residence on the 100 block of Lake Drive and took to the water, according to Brown. Sauter was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail for misdemeanor harassment and disorderly conduct, according to the sheriff’s office.

THEFT

• Chehalis police took a report yesterday afternoon of a tow dolly being stolen from a parking lot on North National Avenue.

• Chehalis police were called about 7 p.m. yesterday after someone reportedly stole a tool box from an open garage on Northeast Washington Avenue.

• Centralia police took a report about 10 a.m. yesterday from the 1600 block of South Gold Street regarding fuel stolen from a vehicle.

NURSE PUNCHED BY PATIENT

• Police were called to the emergency room at Providence Centralia Hospital overnight where an assaultive patent allegedly punched a nurse in the stomach. Alvin R. Matuska, 69, described by police as a transient from Hollywood, Calif., was arrested for third-degree assault and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, shoplifting, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license; responses for alarm, dispute, elderly man on a scooter in traffic, egg throwing adult  … and more.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, June 30, 2014 at 11:46 am

DOMESTIC ASSAULT

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reports this morning a 39-year-old Vader woman was arrested for second-degree assault for allegedly trying to choke her husband on Saturday evening at the 500 block of A. Street in Vader. Tiffanie M. Russo was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the sheriff’s office. Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown says Russo spit at the deputy and also kicked a rear passenger window out of a patrol car.

THEFT

• Someone broke into a shed on undeveloped vacation property at the end of Churchel Road in Randle and stole two five-gallon cans of gas and a saw, according to a report made to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office yesterday morning.

• A deputy took a report yesterday of three watches valued at $500 missing from a home on the 100 block of Enchanted Valley Drive near Vader and subsequently arrested the 33-year-old boyfriend of a niece who had been staying at the property. Richard N. Woodward turned over the watches and was booked into the Lewis County Jail for third-degree theft, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

STRANGER IN THE NIGHT

• Deputies were called to the 200 block of Birley Road near Mossyrock about 12:25 a.m. today after a resident who got up to use the bathroom saw a stranger on her back porch. The woman’s husband yelled out the front door and the man fled, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. He was described as 6-feet 2-inches tall with shoulder length hair and a light blue shirt, according to the sheriff’s office.

VANDALISM

• Centralia police took a report just after 8 o’clock yesterday morning of a door kicked in at a building on the 300 block of North Tower Avenue.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, shoplifting, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license, driving without a license; responses for alarm, suspicious circumstances, misdemeanor assault, collision on city street, disorderly person at hospital … and more.

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Marijuana trade: All eyes will be on Centralia with legal fight in federal court

Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 7:30 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The nearly three dozen page lawsuit filed against the city of Centralia regarding its stance on marijuana businesses talks about many issues, but boils down to one thing: making the city make a decision.

“What we really want is to light a fire under their butts, essentially,” the petitioner’s attorney Elizabeth Hallock said.

Her client, Perry Nelson, would-be proprietor of a retail store RIU420, has been selected by the Washington State Liquor Control Board to receive a license, but he can’t move forward because the city won’t take any applications, Hallock said.

She called Nelson a law abiding citizen caught in the middle of a political game.

A hearing date was set for next month in Lewis County Superior Court, but the city this past week gave notice it would like the case to be heard in federal court.

Nelson’s lawyer’s reaction:

“The federal question has to be decided for the country one way or another,” Hallock said. “What happens in Centralia not only affects the state, now the entire country is watching.”

The lawsuit filed on June 10 is the second in the state regarding local governments and their positions on recreational marijuana businesses. The Wenatchee lawsuit focuses on the federal law issue, Hallock said, and Centralia’s is more about state law.

Centralia’s City Attorney Shannon Murphy-Olson said like every other jurisdiction, Centralia has been studying the issue.

The city put a moratorium in place in November and renewed it in April. The hold on marijuana businesses runs into October, she said.

City planners created a zoning ordinance that was tentatively approved by the city council, which then turned around and re-enacted the moratorium, she said.

“If you look at the votes, the council is split.” Murphy-Olson said. “It’s a very difficult issue.”

Nelson filed the complaint asking a judge for for declaratory, injunctive and mandamus relief regarding what it calls the city’s prohibition.

The court documents say he is a resident of Lewis County, but also give a “Tulalup” address for him. Hallock said she doesn’t know much about her client, but noted he had also put in an application in Everett, so he may have been jurisdiction shopping.

He turned to Hallock, who practices in Clark and Klickitat counties, because he knew she was very dedicated to the issue, she said. She currently running for District Court judge in Klickitat.

She’s already been involved in one marijuana battle in Cowlitz County Superior Court, she said.

Voters passed Initiative 502 in 2012, legalizing possession of small amounts for those 21 and over, and the Washington State Liquor Control Board has been issuing licenses to grow, process and sell.

But her client can’t move forward.

“He has also spent countless hours preparing his operating plans, business plans, employee handbook, filling out applications, and paying licensing fees,” Hallock wrote in the complaint. “Without permission to operate or even do construction on his site from the city, all of his time, money, and efforts will have been and will continue to be wasted.”

The suit claims the city has mis-used moratorium law – a land use decision-making tool –  saying the city’s rolling moratorium is essentially a permanent ban and a pretext for assuaging community opposition.

Nelson argues doing so based on the criminal illegality of marijuana at the federal level is wrong.

“The fear of federal enforcement of federal criminal law against a tightly-controlled, state-regulated recreational marijuana system is unfounded,” Hallock writes.

The lawyer goes into a great amount of detail about how the city’s ban encourages a black market, in contradiction to the Department of Justice directives which prefer a tightly regulated state controlled system.

Finally, she speaks of I-502 as exclusively a matter of state concern.

The state attorney general issued an opinion that local jurisdictions have implied power to zone out marijuana businesses, since that wasn’t addressed in I-502, Hallock said.

But they don’t, she claims.

It’s clear based what’s called a “pregnant silence,” according to Hallock.

“The law did not address the role of cities because it did not intend for cities to be able to ban it,” she said.

Murphy-Olson has filed a notice of appearance on behalf of the city. Olympia attorney Jeffrey Myers has filed a notice of association with the city.

Hallock and attorney Jerrie Paine have filed notices of appearance on behalf of Nelson.

Hallock said she’s charging non-profit rates, because the issue is that important to her.

“They can spend all the tax dollars they want,” Hallock said. “We think the best thing is the city should just adopt the ordinance that allows the state law to proceed.”

The city has not yet filed an answer to the lawsuit, something it had 20 days to do. Instead, on Thursday, it filed the notice the case is removed to U.S. District Court.
•••

Read the initial filing in the lawsuit here

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Stolen burrito leads to fatal shooting in Centralia

Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 4:58 pm
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A 43-year-old Centralia man lays dead in the Anchor Bank parking lot this morning.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Centralia police officer shot and killed a man suspected of shoplifting a burrito from a gas station this morning as the subject reportedly reached for a handgun as he was being detained.

Police say an officer and his K-9 partner caught up with the suspect in the parking lot across the street and a fight ensued, during which the police dog grabbed the suspect’s arm preventing him from pulling his hand out of his pocket, but then briefly released his hold and the officer saw a firearm.

“The officer then drew his duty weapon and fired at least one round striking the suspect,” Centralia Police Department spokesperson Officer John Panco said.

A clerk at the Chevron service station on the corner of South Tower Avenue and East Cherry Street said she heard one gunshot and peeked outside to see someone laying on the ground outside Anchor Bank.

“The dog was still on him,” Rosie Lopez said.

The call to to the shoplifting incident at the Chevron mini mart came at 9:58 a.m. Firefighters arriving at 10:14 a.m. concluded the patient was deceased; he had a gunshot wound in the center of his chest, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

Across Tower Avenue, a clerk at the Shell station said she had gone out the door when she was told by a customer someone was getting arrested. Nicole Escalante said she watched as the officer struggled to handcuff a man.

“I called 911 cause I thought oh my God, he can’t get this guy under control,” Escalante said. “The guy kept getting back up, the guy was all over the place.”

It seemed like a long 10 minutes, Escalante said.

“He was telling the guy to stop, he kept screaming stop,” she said. “(The officer) reached and pulled his gun and ‘boom’, that was it.”

The dead man is a 43-year-old with a Centralia address, according to police. Escalante said she recognized him as someone who sometimes panhandles outside her store.

The officer, whose name has not been released, has been with the department 15 years.

A group of detectives from outside police agencies arrived to investigate the shooting. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer and his chief criminal deputy prosecutor joined Police Chief Bob Berg at the scene.

The perimeter of the bank was blocked off with yellow police tape. Yellow markers were set next to items of interest, including on two patrol cars.

A blue tarp portable tent was in place before noon, to conceal the body from passersby.

Panco said the subject was belligerent from the start, when the officer exited his patrol car and that the officer called for backup as they fought.

He described the final moments as the police dog biting onto the man’s arm after the man pulled the handgun from his pocket. Panco said he was told the firearm was multi-colored, as in perhaps black and silver or “blue” and silver.

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A team of detectives begins its investigation into an officer involved shooting in Centralia.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 10:00 am

MAN IN BLACK HOLDS UP CENTRALIA STORE

• Police are looking for a skinny white male in his 50s after an armed robbery at a convenience store yesterday evening at the 800 block of West First Street in Centralia. Officers summoned by an alarm learned the man came into the business brandishing a silver handgun and demanded cash, according to police. The 28-year-old clerk gave it to him and was unhurt, Sgt. Kurt Reichert said. The subject has a gray mustache and wore dark sunglasses with a black bandana around his neck, according to police. He also wore a dark hooded sweatshirt, police said.

FIGHT AT PEPPERTREE

• A 28-year-old man was punched several times when an acquaintance took his cell phone yesterday morning at the Peppertree Motel and RV Park in Centralia. Officers called about 10:45 a.m. subsequently arrested Gregory S. Schroeder, 28, from Chehalis, for second-degree robbery and booked him into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

FIGHT AT PEPPERTREE

• A 50-year-old Raymond man was thrown to the ground and struck with something sharp during a dispute at the Peppertree Motel in Centralia on Friday afternoon and police are looking for his assailant in order to arrest him for second-degree assault. Officers responding about 2 p.m. to the 1200 block of Alder Street don’t know if the cut above the eye was caused by a knife or perhaps a piece of glass, according to the Centralia Police Department.

OOPS

• Centralia police were called about 9 p.m. yesterday after a male reportedly stole the product known as Spice from behind the counter at the Shell gas station on the 600 block of South Tower Avenue. Officers are looking for a 28-year-old Centralia man as he left his driver’s license on the counter, according to the Centralia Police Department.

TRICKERY

• Centralia police called to Providence Centralia Hospital last night about a DUI because a patient had driven away after being given narcotics learned the individual had been treated under two different names, one of them belonging to a deceased person. The male currently known as John Doe faces possible arrest for forgery, according to the Centralia Police Department.

VANDALISM

• Someone broke a window on a porch at the 1100 block of South Tower Avenue in Centralia, according to a report made to police yesterday morning.

• Police took a report about 2:20 a.m. today regarding the back window smashed out of a car at the 300 block of North Tower Avenue in Centralia.

DO-IT-YOURSELF FIREFIGHTING MISSES THE MARK

• Firefighters were called about 3:15 a.m. today to the 200 block of West Oakview Avenue in Centralia where a fire was smoldering in an attic following a small kitchen fire hours earlier. “He had a grease fire about 10:30 p.m. and had already repainted everything,” Riverside Fire Authority Capt. Tim Adolphsen said. “And he felt there was a problem in the ceiling, and there was.” Adolphsen said the man’s wife came home and pointed out the new paint was turning brown, and they could feel the heat on the sheetrock. Crews tore out the ceiling and discovered the earlier fire must have traveled up the stove vent duct and burned an approximately 10 foot by 10 foot area of the attic space, including blown in insulation, he said. The damage was estimated at about $9,000. “Luckily it all was slow,” Adolphsen said.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, shoplifting, misdemeanor assault, driving under the influence; responses for misdemeanor theft, collision on city street … and more.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, June 27, 2014 at 7:00 pm

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING

• A Vancouver woman was arrested overnight after she allegedly walked into a Centralia convenience store cracked open a beer and threatened to cut the clerk with a knife when she was told she couldn’t do that, according to police. It happened about 2:40 a.m. at the Chevron on the 1200 block of Mellen Street, according to the Centralia Police Department. The clerk backed off and called 911, and the suspect was found over at the nearby motel, police said. A spilled large container of the malt liquor beverage 4Loko was found in her room, Sgt. Kurt Reichert said. Michelle M. Milligan was booked into the Lewis County Jail for second-degree robbery, he said. Prosecutors declined to file that charge.

• An 18-year-old driver and his 13-year-old relative were both intoxicated when a deputy pulled over a truck after watching it spin out, drive through a grassy area at the exit 72 interchange and speed north onto Interstate 5 into Chehalis overnight, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. It was about 3 o’clock this morning. The deputy followed and caught up with the truck that blew the stop sign at the 13th Street exit which finally stopped along the 600 block of Southwest Cascade Avenue, Cmdr. Steve Aust said. Isaac R. Kennedy said he’d been drinking moonshine, Aust said. He was arrested and booked into the Lewis County jail for driving under the influence and reckless endangerment, according to Aust. The girl was taken to the Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center and booked for minor in possession or consumption of alcohol.

COMPUTER STOLEN FROM SCHOOL

• Someone broke into a building at the Onalaska school and stole an Apple MacBook laptop computer and two Sony camcorders, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy responding to the 500 block of Carlisle Avenue yesterday morning learned it happened around 2:15 a.m., sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust said. The loss is estimated at $1,200.

HEAVY DUTY SHOPLIFTING

• Two individual were arrested for organized retail theft yesterday evening after they were caught allegedly stealing items from multiple stores in the 1300 block of Lum Road in Centralia. Booked into the Lewis County Jail were Jade N. Vanauken, 18 of Centralia and Aonoauaalofagia Vagatai, 20 of Hawaii, according to the Centralia Police Department.

DRUGS

• Four teenagers were arrested yesterday afternoon after they were discovered allegedly smoking marijuana inside a vehicle at Fort Borst Park in Centralia. The underage individuals, ages 18, 17 and 16, were arrested and then released, according to the Centralia Police Department.

OTHER THEFT

• Police were called about 6:20 p.m. yesterday to the 1500 block of Delaware Avenue in Centralia regarding parts taken from a vehicle.

VANDALISM

• Two windows were broken out of a business at the 200 block of West Main Street in Centralia, and discovered during the night.

• A window was broken out of a parked car at the 100 block of South Street in Centralia, according to a report made to police about 6:15 a.m. today.

• Chehalis police took a report yesterday of the outside portions of three large double-paned windows being broken at Thorbekes on Southwest Chehalis Avenue. It happened last weekend and  caused $1,600 damage, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

WRECK

• A 23-year-old Oakville resident was injured when he fell asleep while driving along state Route 8 just outside McCleary last night. Troopers called about 8:50 p.m. determined Trenton G. Darnell was westbound and gradually left the roadway, entering a ditch and then striking a fence and a road sign before rolling, according to the Washington State Patrol. The 1989 Oldsmobile Cutless came to rest on its top and was described as totaled. Darnell was transported by aid to Summit Pacific Medical Center, according to the state patrol. He had been seat belted in and no alcohol or drugs are suspected, the state patrol reports.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, violation of protection order, third-degree possession of stolen property, misdemeanor assault; responses for alarms, shoplifting, suspicious circumstances, collision on city street … and more.

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Stranger with knife walks into rural Centralia home

Friday, June 27, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Updated at 7:23 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A rural Centralia man grabbed his shotgun and pushed an intruder out the door this morning and held him at gunpoint until deputies arrived.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office was called about 7:30 a.m. to a home near the far end of Little Hanaford Road, roughly 10 miles east of town. They learned the residents, a man and woman, were sitting in their house when a stranger walked in with a serrated steak knife in his hand, according to Cmdr. Steve Aust.

The 62-year-old man grabbed his gun and shoved the stranger outside, and then pushed him a little farther out, Aust said.

“He held him at gunpoint until our guys arrived; he didn’t offer any resistance at that point,” Aust said.

The only injury was the intruder had to get a couple of stitches in his head because the resident hit him at some point with the butt end of the gun, Aust said.

The man, Sean M. Ferrel, 43, from Bremerton, was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital and then was to be booked into the Lewis County Jail for first-degree burglary, Aust said.

Aust said it’s not clear what he would have been doing in the area, or why he entered someone else’s house.

“The guy’s not local either,” he said. “It sounds like one of these high on drugs (things).”

Aust said that at some point there also may have been a machete involved, but further details weren’t yet available.

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Judge: No crime for founder of House of The Rising Son

Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 6:28 pm
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Judy Chafin hears a judge proclaim her not guilty in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Chehalis woman accused of wrongly collecting more than $90,000 in benefits – supposedly working while receiving payments for a 2006 on-the-job injury was found not guilty today.

Judy Chafin, 62, wiped tears from her face as the judge announced his decision.

Prosecutors said the operator of controversial halfway houses performed landlord-like services for the newly released prisoners who lived in the various residences, part of her House of the Rising Son organization. Her attorney said the activities didn’t meet the definition of work from the state Department of Labor and Industries which paid out the funds.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler said the case came down to whether it was work and if she intended to commit theft.

“The witnesses were all over the board as to what work meant in this case,” Lawler said. “I simply cannot find that has been proven here.”

The trial that began on Monday was decided by the judge; there was no jury.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg had suggested that a 2010 investigation into her activities that went nowhere and her subsequent expansion of the number of homes indicated she must have known what she was doing was work.

Judge Lawler said defense attorney Sam Groberg’s argument was more reasonable, that Chafin continued what she was doing after L&I had knowledge of the House of the Rising Son.

Chafin’s benefits were stopped and then reinstated, he said.

“To put criminal liability on that once that question has already come up, does not make sense to me,” Lawler said.

Chafin was acquitted of 30 counts of forgery and two counts of first-degree theft; one count of theft was related to Social Security disability payments.

She was visibly relived and thanked the judge.

“I’m not guilty, and I never was,” she said outside the courtroom. “So I’m very happy about the decision that shows God is standing there.”

The Chehalis woman suffered an on-the-job injury in September 2006, while working as a certified nursing assistant at  Tiffin House in Centralia. She founded the organization  between 2006 and 2007.

At its height, there were as many as 10 similar homes.

Chafin began to get a lot of attention from law enforcement and then city and county officials beginning about two years ago when residents on a rural Chehalis road complained they didn’t want multiple felons, especially registered sex offenders, living together under one roof in their neighborhood. Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield vowed to do everything he could to shut her down.

Earlier this year, she said she chose not to fight the various zoning actions and found places for her various tenants to live.

Attorney Groberg said it was a different kind of case, that no one alleged his client didn’t have a real injury, his client didn’t hide what she was doing, and she didn’t earn any money doing it. She lost money, he said.

“Judy’s a good person, trying to do good things,” he said.

He said the case was political in some aspects.

“Not on Eric’s (the deputy prosecuting attorney) part,” he said. “But with Brad Reynolds, the neighbor and another neighbor was Chehalis’ code enforcement officer.”

And he noted the politics in Olympia with a push for L&I to privatize, that the agency is looking harder to find fraud to justify such a change.

“And one example of trying to find fraud, Judy’s an example of that,” he said.

The L&I investigator who handled the case said he couldn’t say who made the initial complaint. It was anonymous, he said.

•••

For background, read:

• “Discord on Nix Road: Newest arrivals unwelcome” from Saturday March 3, 2012, here

• “The backstory: Intelligence gathering, possible fines and code enforcement tools “not normally used” from Sunday March 4, 2012, here

• “The sun sets on House of the Rising Son” from Thursday March 20, 2014, here

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Updated at 1:25 p.m.

SCARE AT PET STORE

• A 45-year-old Winlock man was taken into custody yesterday at Lincoln Creek Lumber in Centralia following an incident involving a knife at a nearby business. Police were called about 4 p.m. to the 1400 block of Harrison Avenue where employees at a pet store were holding a door shut because a man who had been hanging around pulled out a pocket-type knife, according to the Centralia Police Department. Several officers responded and the suspect was discovered up the street at the hardware store on the corner of Harrison and Galvin Road, Officer John Panco said. He had reportedly kicked out a door there and was seen exiting the store, Panco said. Brian T. Bircher wasn’t particularly cooperative as far as talking with police, Panco said. He was arrested for first-degree burglary and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police. Panco said it wasn’t clear why Bircher was behaving the way he was at the pet store.

THEFT

• Someone took a blue mountain bike from an unlocked shed at the 1100 block of West First Street in Centralia, according to a report made to police yesterday morning.

BOOM

• An individual on Southwest William Avenue in Chehalis called police yesterday after finding suspicious remnants of something beneath their truck. An overnight explosion and the debris were most likely fireworks, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

‘VERY LUCKY’

• A wrong way driver on the freeway yesterday afternoon was suffering from blood sugar so low it didn’t even register on a testing device. The Washington State Patrol reported it was around 2 p.m. when the Ford Explorer traveled south in the northbound lanes in Centralia but managed to pull to the righthand side of the road without running in to anyone else. The Chehalis Fire Department was called over to the state patrol detachment because troopers didn’t know if the 49-year-old man was suffering from a medical or drug-related issue, Fire Capt. Ted McCarty said. The driver was fairly incoherent, handcuffed and on the ground outside as they’d tried to take him inside to interview him, McCarty said. “He was kind of fighting a little, but that’s because with low blood sugar, you don’t know where you’re at or what you’re doing,” McCarty said. Medics administered treatment and took him to Providence Centralia Hospital, according to responders. The state patrol yesterday indicated it didn’t know if any citation would be issued.

SHERIFF TO DRIVERS: WE’RE WATCHING YOU

• Extra pairs of law enforcement eyes will be watching drivers and crosswalks around the Law and Justice Center on Main Street in Chehalis again. The sheriff’s office announced yesterday deputies would be conducting another emphasis over the next week, a second attempt to make the area safer for pedestrians. They did it in mid-May in response to a request from county employees and other citizens who said the crosswalks in the area were unsafe. Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield said the idea wasn’t so much about writing tickets, but about education and encouraging motorists to slow down. Nine warnings were given and five infractions handed out. Deputies witnessed two boys almost get hit in a nearby crosswalk. Mansfield said it was a real eye opener and clearly related to distracted driving and cell phones. “Drivers need to slow down and pay attention, especially in areas in which there is a lot of pedestrian traffic,” Mansfield stated. “If we can prevent serious injury or even death by conducting these emphases we will continue to do so.”

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, resisting arrest, reckless driving, misdemeanor assault, driving with suspended license; responses for alarms, disputes, harassment, collision on city street … and more.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Updated at 10:16 p.m.

ANTIQUE RIFLE WITH BAYONET STOLEN

• A 37-year-old Chehalis man called police yesterday after he was burglarized for the third time in two months. Police were told that sometime between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. someone stole a WWII rifle with bayonet and also took a jar of coins from the residence on the 600 block of Northwest St. Helens Avenue. He said he’d changed the locks but his girlfriend advised him the back door was unlocked, according to the Chehalis Police Department. The rifle has a value of about $250, according to police.

NOT MY DRUGS

• A 40-year-old Centralia woman was arrested yesterday afternoon when she reportedly confessed to a police officer she had someone else’s property in her purse while the officer waited for her to produce her identification. She produced a pipe, which had residue that field-tested positive for methamphetamine, according to police. Officer John Panco said an officer driving through the parking lot at the Pepper Tree Motel on Alder Street around 3:45 p.m. saw Traci J. Zollinger-Miller who seemed to be trying to hide behind a bush. When he approached her, she ran and when contacted, told the officer she thought she had a warrant, Panco said. As she got out her identification, the officer observed a syringe in the purse – which she said was someone else’s –  Panco said, and when asked if there was anything else, produced the pipe. Zollinger-Miller was booked into the Lewis County Jail for possession of methamphetamine, according to the Centralia Police Department.

SLIDING OFF THE ROAD

• A 20-year-old Toledo resident said he was unfamiliar with the area when he left the roadway at a curve, sheering off both a fire hydrant and a utility pole and damaging a fence yesterday. Deputies called about 4:55 p.m. to the 3700 block of Cooks Hill Road noted the 2005 Dodge Ram sustained major damage but nobody was injured, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The driver was issued a citation for speeds too fast, according to the sheriff’s office.

CAR HITS SEMI, SECOND SEMI SCRAPES CAR

• A 42-year-old motorist escaped injury when he slammed into the back of a semi truck which had slowed for traffic early yesterday morning on Interstate 5 in Centralia but his car was totaled and he was to be issued citations for following too closely and not having insurance, according to the Washington State Patrol. Troopers called about 6:40 a.m. to the sound bound lanes near milepost 82 noted that the big rig pulled to the shoulder and when a second semi truck tried to pass on the left, it scraped the side of the Toyota Camry. “We tried to push the car clear, but it was too damaged to move,” Trooper Torson Iverson said. One lane was closed for about a half an hour, Iverson said. The car belonging to Robert H. Ginter, 42, of Centralia, was towed, according to the state patrol.

OH MY

• A wrong way driver on the freeway in Centralia who was able to pull over safely without any collisions or injuries occurring this afternoon was taken to the hospital and it was discovered the incident was caused by a medical condition, according to the Washington State Patrol. It happened about 2 p.m. on Interstate 5 near milepost 80, south of town, according to the state patrol.The investigating trooper reports Darren M. Lumbert, 49, of Centralia, traveled southbound in the northbound lanes in a Ford Explorer. Whether any citation will be issued is under consideration. Further details were not readily available.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, shoplifting, misdemeanor assault, protection order violation, driving with suspended license, driving with no license, allowing unlicensed person to drive; responses for alarms, trespassing, fraudulent checks … and more.

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Accidental free night out for jail inmate

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Updated at 1:13 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An inmate was accidentally released from the Lewis County Jail last night, a 25-year-old man charged just yesterday with harassment, threat to kill.

Joshua E. Blankenship was arrested on Monday afternoon after allegedly pointing an imaginary gun at grocery store employees who detained him for stealing pre-packaged biscuits and gravy in Centralia.

Police said he mimicked shooting sounds at the same time, saying “Pow, pow, pow,” while staff held him down.

Jail Chief Kevin Hanson said he learned of the error this morning.

“We had law enforcement all over searching for him,” Hanson said.

Centralia police located Blankenship and returned him to the Chehalis facility at about noon today.

Blankenship has been described by local police as both a Chehalis resident and a transient.

He was arrested a week ago in Chehalis for allegedly stealing a backpack and attempting to steal a bicycle chained up on a porch. A caller to 911 said he seemed to be speaking in tongues.

On Monday, Centralia officers were called to Fuller’s Shop ‘n Kart on the the 500 block of South Tower Avenue where they were told he was seen walking into the restroom with a food item in his hand, but when he came out he didn’t have it.

He allegedly shoved an employee who tried to block his path and then during an ensuing tussle, the biscuits and gravy fell from his pocket.

Threatening the workers with his pretend gun brought him a charge yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court of harassment. The shove elevated what would have been a shoplifting charge to second-degree robbery.

A judge yesterday afternoon ordered Blankenship held on $10,000 bail.

Hanson said he was let go from the jail yesterday evening because his paperwork wasn’t properly processed.

“My staff read the paperwork wrong and released him,” Hanson said.

Jail staff thought Blankenship could get out on a signature bond, a promise to appear in court, according to Hanson.

Hanson said he didn’t know how dangerous Blankenship is or isn’t, as he hasn’t met him.

Mistakes are bound to happen, with a hugely convoluted paperwork system, Hanson said.

“What I can tell you is nobody’s perfect,” he said. “We process thousands of releases and bookings each year, and it’s not always easy to decipher.”

A Centralia Police Department spokesperson said he didn’t yet know the details, but believed Blankenship was found standing on a street in town and an officer spotted him.

His arraignment is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, when a judge may be asked to consider a lower bail amount, according to defense attorney Bob Schroeter who represented him temporarily at yesterday’s hearing.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 11:53 am

LARGE MUSICAL INSTRUMENT VANISHES FROM HOME

• A cello and a 12-gauge shotgun are among the nearly $2,000 worth of valuables missing after a burglary at a north Centralia home. A deputy dispatched yesterday to contact the 36-year-old victim learned the man left his home on the 500 block of Haliday Road about 11 a.m. on Saturday and when he returned at midnight, discovered the thefts, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy was able to locate a forced entry point, but the victim also thought it was possible the front doors hadn’t been properly locked, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. Also taken were a Toshiba laptop computer and external hard drive, a digital video camera, costume jewelry and other property, according to Brown. The gun is a model 350 Savage, she said.

OUTDOOR THEFT

• Someone stole a U.S. flag from the front porch of a home on the 500 block of West Pine Street in Centralia, according to a report made to police yesterday evening. It is described as approximately 4 feet by 5 feet in size, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A 30-foot extension ladder was reported missing from a yard on the 200 block of First Street in Morton on Friday morning.

USED GAME WAS STOLEN

• A 23-year-old Centralia man who showed identification when he sold an X-box to a Chehalis game store on Friday was arrested yesterday for trafficking stolen property. Police followed up after learning the item had been stolen in Thurston County. Booked into the Lewis County Jail was Nicholas R. Dafoe, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

DRUGS

• A pair of underage Centralia men were arrested about 12:20 a.m. today for possession of marijuana at the 2000 block of Borst Avenue in Centralia. Trenton J. Hall, 20, and Donald J. Johnson, 19, were cited also for possession of drug paraphernalia and then released, according to the Centralia Police Department.

VANDALISM

• Centralia police took a report yesterday of a broken window on a car that occurred overnight at the 300 block of Centralia College Boulevard.

JUST CALM DOWN

• Morton police responded to a residence in the 700 block of Main Avenue about 8:35 p.m. on Thursday regarding a verbal dispute. After speaking with the parties involved, it was determined that one of them would spend the night at a different location in order to calm down, police report.

CRIME STOPPERS

• Lewis County Crime Stoppers is looking for tips regarding a burglary from April 30 at the 2300 block of state Route 505 near Toledo in which witnesses saw a dark colored Nissan or Ford Ranger truck leaving the area with flatbed trailer carrying a John Deere riding lawnmower. The trailer was recovered in Cowlitz County, but the mower is still missing, according to Crime Stoppers. The loss is more than $2,500.  Crime Stoppers pays up to $1,000 for information leading to the clearance of crimes. Anonymous calls can be made to 1-800-748-6422 or information may be shared online at www.lewiscountycrimestoppers.org

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, misdemeanor assault, driving with suspended license; responses for alarms, disputes, suspicious circumstances,   collision in parking lot; complaint a paycheck couldn’t be cashed because of non-sufficient funds… and more.

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No lunch for Chehalis man with imaginary firearm

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 10:14 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A grocery customer who allegedly tried to shoplift pre-packaged biscuits and gravy yesterday found himself arrested for more serious charges after he reportedly made a motion with his hand as though he had a gun, saying “Pow, pow, pow,” while staff held him down.

Police called just before 1 p.m. to the 500 block of South Tower Avenue in Centralia were told a suspicious employee tried to block the path of Joshua E. Blankenship who then shoved the employee, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Fuller’s Shop ‘n Kart workers were able to stop him, Officer John Panco said, and when Blankenship then slipped and fell, he spilled his cup of coffee and the food item dropped out of his pocket.

That’s when he made the threat to kill the two employees by drawing his non-existent gun, according to Panco.

Blankenship, 25, from Chehalis, was arrested for second-degree robbery, felony harassment and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police.