March 4, 1995 in Washington Voices

Question Of Crime Shooting In Supermarket Parking Lot Opens E To Seriousness Of Increasing Violent Crime In Spokane Valley

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Joel Mansfield nearly died over a six-pack of beer.

The 21-year-old man was shot four times early last Saturday outside a Spokane Valley supermarket after four youths demanded the beer he had just bought.

Mansfield refused to hand it over and a fight began in the parking lot of Tidyman’s Warehouse Foods store at Sprague and McDonald.

Mansfield still has two slugs from a .357 revolver lodged near his spine and remains in the intensive care unit at Valley Hospital and Medical Center. Doctors say he might not walk again.

Jonathan D. Munk, 17, of 383 E. Seventh, was arrested after the shooting and will be charged as an adult with first-degree assault. He is being held at the Spokane County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bond and also faces a number of juvenile charges, including possession of a firearm.

Deputies say Munk and his friends had been hanging out at Sports Page Lanes, a popular youth hangout nextdoor to Tidyman’s, before wandering over to the supermarket.

The Sports Page has been the site of trouble before, deputies say. That is common at places where young people gather, they add. But in the past six months alone, there have been at least four violent incidents, from stabbings to robberies, inside the business or in its parking lot.

Some Tidyman’s employees say overflow clientele from the bowling alley at 12828 E. Sprague has caused problems for years. The 24-hour supermarket plans to hire a uniformed security guard to patrol its parking lot on weekend nights.

“This is an eye opener for everybody,” said sheriff’s Detective Mike Massong, who’s investigating the case. “There’s a new philosophy among our youngsters. There’s no respect for human life anymore.”

Just after midnight Saturday morning, Mansfield and a friend stood in line at register No. 13, Tidyman’s night manager Phil Edminster said. He noticed them because they looked young, and he wanted to make sure they paid for their beer. The cashier asked them for identification.

Edminster also remembers a youth - the boy accused in the shooting - standing behind Mansfield in line. He’s not sure if the boy bought anything.

“He just caught my eye. I kind of wondered what he was up to,” Edminster said. The youth wore Walkman-style headphones over slicked-back hair and a long, dark green Army-style coat.

Munk has an extensive juvenile crime record, including a conviction for at least one violent offense, Massong said.

Tidyman’s provided the sheriff’s department with a video that shows Munk in the building.

Mansfield and his friend had just left the store when they were approached by the four youths. When the youths demanded the beer, Mansfield refused. Angry words quickly escalated into a shoving match. A gun was pulled, shots were fired, and Mansfield crumpled to the ground in the first row of parking spaces. The gunman and his friends fled the scene.

Edminster went to help after an employee said shots had been fired in the parking lot. Moments after the shooting, Mansfield told him that he couldn’t move his legs, recalled Edminster, who waited with the injured man for an ambulance to arrive.

Mansfield’s family has been watching over him around the clock at Valley Hospital and Medical Center. He’s lucky to be alive, Detective Massong said. The shooter’s intent was to kill, he said.

“Considering the caliber weapon and the location of the wounds, the victim is extremely lucky. Under normal circumstances, this would be a homicide. The person would be dead,” Massong said.

Mansfield’s condition has improved from critical to stable in the past week. He was still in the Intensive Care Unit on Friday.

Two of the bullets passed through Mansfield’s body, one in the chest area, the other in his right leg. The other two remain near his spine.

Mansfield’s mother and sister leave daily updates on the answering machine at the family’s South McDonald home.

“The doctors are allowing Joel to eat again,” a voice on the machine said Wednesday. “He’s gone in for X-rays but it’s very painful. The two bullets are still right on the spine…”

The voice thanks people for their prayers and informs them of a trust account that has been set up in Joel Mansfield’s name at West One Bank.

At her home on East Seventh, Diana Munk also prays for Mansfield’s safe recovery - and for her own son. She said her son, Jonathan Munk, has been in trouble before.

“We’re praying that he’ll get back on the right track,” she said through tears. “Sometimes people have to go clear to the bottom before they get up.”

Sheriff’s deputies found Munk near Eighth and Blake, about eight blocks away, after the shooting. Using a police dog to backtrack, they recovered a long dark coat, a blue bandana and a .357 revolver nearby. An abandoned portable cassette player lay near the scene of the shooting.

Munk denies shooting Mansfield, Massong said.

But Munk’s name is familiar to deputies. “Yeah, he’s been in our flier a couple of times,” said Cpl. Jim Wakefield, referring to the notice that informs police of problems and people to watch.

He’s known as a “tagger,” Massong said. Taggers travel in groups, spray painting gang graffiti, vandalizing cars and harassing people, said sheriff’s Detective Rick Van Leuven, who specializes in gangs. They associate with gangs but are not members.

Gang graffiti is spray painted on the walls behind the Sports Page, and in numerous other Valley locations.

A month and a half ago, Sports Page manager Lance Rinard increased his security force. Two off-duty sheriff’s deputies, instead of one, now patrol the parking lot and building on Friday and Saturday nights.

Rinard said Munk has been barred from the building, but detectives said the suspect and his three friends were either in the Sports Page or its parking lot that night, before the shooting.

“We don’t have problems with most of them,” Rinard said of the young people who frequent his business. “Unless we have armed guards at every entrance … I don’t know what I can do differently.”

But now some of the bowling alley’s problems have overflowed to another business. Some Tidyman’s customers said they won’t shop at the store at night anymore, employees said.

Other employees said they wish they weren’t so close to the Sports Page, whose parking lot adjoins Tidyman’s.

“That Sports Page is bad news,” said one employee, who asked not to be named.

Over the past couple of years, cars in the supermarket’s parking lot have been vandalized, purses have been stolen, and bottles have been thrown at delivery trucks.

Edminster said groups of young people come in late at night. He can’t keep up with the shoplifting, he said.

“There’s really nothing you can do,” he said.

A uniformed guard will now patrol the parking lot every Friday and Saturday night, said loss prevention manager Jim Armstrong. “If we think there’s a need, we’ll put two people on,” he said.

The Sports Page is a problem area, deputies said, largely because it attracts so many youths. But it’s one of the few places young people can hang out in the Valley, they said.

“It’s getting worse everywhere,” said Inspector Mike Myhre. “It’s not just the Sports Page parking lot. I’m talking city and county.”

ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 color)

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