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Wife’s spot saves man from cop gunfire

A Spokane Valley man who pointed a starter pistol at officers last week was not shot because his wife was in the line of fire, police announced today.

William Thomas Laroque, 28, said “Well, hello officers” and began calmly walking toward Sgts. Don Manning and Matt Smith when they arrived at his home in the 5300 block of East 8th Avenue after 3:10 a.m. on Thursday, according to a news release from the Spokane Valley Police Department.

Officer Jeremy Howe had been there about three hours earlier after Laroque's wife reported to 911 that he slapped her during an argument. No arrests were made because Howe didn't find evidence of the assault, and Laroque had already fled the home. Laroque's wife called 911 again when he returned and refused to leave, police said.

Laroque was about 30 feet away from police when “he pulled what appeared to be a pistol from his pants and aimed it in a two-handed stance at Sgt. Smith,” according to the release.

Police drew their guns but realized Laroque's wife was behind him and in the line of fire. Laroque continued aiming the gun at Smith but dropped it several seconds after the sergeants began ordered him to do so. He also tossed a knife in the driveway and got on the ground, where he was handcuffed.

The wife repeatedly told police the gun was fake and also thanked them for not shooting her husband, police said. Laroque was arrested on a domestic violence charge and is in custody at Geiger Corrections Center on $3,500 bond.

Bike-riding bank robbery gets 17 years

A bicycle-riding bank robber responsible for nine gunpoint heists in Spokane is to spend 17 years in prison and repay $150,118.59.

 Lucas G. Woodard, 34, is in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to federal prison after being sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Woodard robbed nine banks between December 2009 and October 2010, when he was arrested after fleeing a Washington Trust Bank branch at 1906 W. Francis Ave.

Spokane police Sgt. Jason Hartman, who was driving home from work, heard radio traffic about a bank robbery, saw Woodard fleeing the scene and steered his patrol vehicle into the path of Woodard’s bicycle.

When Woodard fell to the ground, a Glock 9 MM semi-automatic pistol and some rounds of ammunition fell out of his backpack.

Hartman later received department commendations for his actions.

 Before his arrest, Woodard had no criminal record, was employed at Woodard Construction and was reportedly a regular at Maggie's South Hill Grill.

 

He lived alone in a rental home on High Drive on the South Hill. After his arrest, he thanked federal agents “for treating him well, explaining that…because of what he did, he could have been treated poorly,” according to court documents.

Woodard admitted that although he had a gun, he would never have used it. Woodard also stated that he was a ‘gentle guy’ apart from the robberies that he committed.”

Cops: Vengeful beau fired shot in motel

A man accused of hiding in his ex-girlfriend's motel room and threatening her and her new boyfriend with a handgun appeared in court Wednesday on burglary and assault charges.

Matthew A. Raney, 24, was arrested Tuesday, two days after police say he attacked his ex-girlfriend, Sara Anderson, and her boyfriend, identified both as George Howard and John Howard in court documents, in a room at the Trade Winds Motel, 907 W. Third Ave.

Police swarmed the building Sunday about 9:19 p.m. amid reports of an armed suspect hiding somewhere in the motel. Officers did not find the gunman, but Anderson identified him as Raney, who she said lived with her at the motel until thee or four days ago.

She said she arrived home that night to find a note left by Raney, who then came out of the bathroom with a handgun and pushed her to the ground before hitting Howard in the head with the pistol.The two wrestled and a shot was fired, but no one was injured. A motel worker and another renter said he saw Raney exit the room holding the pistol.

A tip to Crime Check placed Raney back at the motel on Tuesday about 4:15 p.m. and indicated he may be ready to turn himself in. Raney was arrested without incident.

Raney told police he was high on heroin and upset about breaking up with Anderson, who he said was his wife of more than two years. He said he was high on heroin the night of the shooting and wanted to leave a note for his wife. But he was concerned her new boyfriend would see it first so he waited in the bathroom with the gun, according to court documents. Raney remains in jail on $50,000 bond.

Gunman wanted in downtown shooting

Police are looking for a suspect in a shooting Sunday night in downtown Spokane.

Matthew A. Raney, whose age was not released by police, is accused of firing shots at 907 W. 3rd Ave.

Police locked down the four-story Trade Winds Motel about 9:10 p.m. Officers couldn't find a victim and had conflicting reports of where the suspect was. They found his room empty but blood on a bed, then learned a victim had located police in an office in the building and said there was a second victim, whom police found in a nearby room.

The victims said the suspect was hiding in their apartment and “and came at them with a gun,” according to a news release.

A fight over the gun ensued, and a shot was fired. The victim suffered a cut to his head but the second female victim was uninjured.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.
  

Police identify pot thief shot by woman

Spokane police have identified a man who was shot Monday by a woman while trying to steal medical marijuana plants as Raymond P. Bates, 49.

Bates was scheduled to appear in Superior Court today on a first-degree robbery charge.

Bates was treated at a hospital for a gunshot wound to the back of his head before being booked into jail.

Police found him near North Crestline Street and East Empire Avenue after a woman who knows him called police to say he'd been shot while trying to steal marijuana plants.

According to police, Bates had fled the home at 1023 E. Gordon Ave. with at least one marijuana plant after being shot by the female homeowner, identified in court documents as Darcee Kapfer. Kapher lives at the home with Jason Kirby.

Kapfer said she armed herself with a 8-foot piece of wood, but the thief grabbed it and struck Kirby, so she retrieved a .38 caliber revolver from her home and fired it at him five times, according to court documents.

A man who reportedly drove Bates from the robbery has not been located, nor has the truck they were driving.

Kapfer, who did not call police after firing the shots, has a medical marijuana authorization, police said. Police found 11 plants in her yard, which is under the legal limit.

Young Ecstasy dealer gets 5 1/2 years

A Spokane man arrested on Ecstasy and firearm charges after telling a federal informant that he would “shoot it out with the cops” is headed to prison.

Patrick Hayes Wellman, 20, was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court to to 5 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to distribution of Ecstasy and use or carry of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. He'll be on probation for three years after his release.

The DEA began investigating Wellman in March after a confidential informant told them Wellman sold large quantities of Ecstasy and repeatedly said he could obtain as many pills as he wished.

The informant was to buy 100 pills from Wellman for $450. During a recorded conversation, Wellman boasted to the informant of stealing firearms; when the informant asked what he would do if stopped by police, Wellman responded “Well, I'm not going to go down easy. I'm going to shoot it out with the cops,” according to court testimony.

Police arrested block Wellman's car during a traffic stop and found a loaded .44 revolver in the car after his arrest.

Wellman's friends, Jeramy Michael Allen, then 18, and Vonne A. Renkert-Schafer, then 20, were arrested for retaliating against the informant in Wellman's case. Allen has pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony and Renkert-Schafer has pleaded guilty to retaliating against an informant. Both are out of custody awaiting sentencing.

Wellman's lawyer, Bevan Maxey, said in court documents that Wellman has no previous criminal history and is not associated with gangs or organized crime. Wellman hopes to complete drug treatment program and has the skills to earn an honest living after prison, Maxey wrote.

Now that his federal case is resolved, Wellman is due in Superior Court today on gun and theft charges for a burglary ring in Spokane County.

2 accused in Subway gunpoint robbery

Two men were arrested for an armed robbery at a Subway sandwich shop Wednesday night.

Spokane police spotted William Frederick Ellis, 30, and Eric Lyle Davidow, 32, walking on northbound on Cedar from Knox and noticed the matched the description of two men seen running to a home in the 1900 block of North Jefferson just after a gunman robbed Subway at 1103 Northwest Blvd.

Officers Jay Kernkamp, Michele Madsen and Aaron Ames “made a tactical and safe approach” and arrested the men.

Police located cash and clothing consistent with the robbery, as well as a gun that matched the description of the gun used int eh robbery.

Ellis and Davidow are to appear in Spokane County Superior Court today on a first-degree robbery charge. They're in custody at the Spokane County Jail.

The robbery was reported about 9 p.m.

Gunfire ‘just because’ leads to arrest

A young father arrested on a drug charge last month was arrested again Friday after allegedly firing a gun in Spokane Valley.

No one was injured by the gunshot, which Benjamin Marcus Crocker-Beck, 21, told deputies he'd fired “just because,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

Deputies were called to the 100 block of South Tschirley Road about 7:45 p.m. Friday after a man heard a gunshot and saw Crocker-Beck walking in the area.

Deputies found Crocker-Beck with a loaded 9mm Ruger handgun in his front waistband. The gun's serial number was filed off.

Crocker-Beck has previous felony convictions that prohibit him from possessing firearms.

Crocker-Beck's arrest on gun charges came just one day after prosecutors filed a drug charge against him related to a search in August in which people were found smoking Oxycodone in the presence of Crocker-Beck’s 1-month-old child, accoridng to police.
  

No jail furlough for new Hells Angel dad

A federal judge today refused to allow Hells Angels sergeant-at-arms Ricky W. Jenks out of jail so he can help with his girlfriend’s pregnancy.

U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush ripped Jenks during the hearing, saying Jenks hadn’t “earned” much consideration from him.

“His record is not one that generates a great deal of sympathy,” Quackenbush said of Jenks. “But here he is escaping another major, major multiyear sentence.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Aug. 3: Judge skeptical of Hells Angels plea deal

March 7: Jenks' arrest pleases '01 victim's mother

March 31: Grand jury indicts Hells Angels leader

2 men arraigned in trailer park assault

Two men pleaded not guilty Thursday to several felony charges for a fight at a trailer park that involved a gun.

Josephus McDonald III, 31, (left) is charged with first-degree burglary, attempt to elude a police vehicle and four counts of second-degree assault for a Sept. 1 incident at the Wishing Well trailer park, 4911 N. Florida St.

Julian D. Morrison, 24, (right) is charged with first-degree burglary, second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and three counts of second-degree assault. One of the victims said she knew McDonald as “Too Much” and met him through Morrison, who is her ex-boyfriend, according to court documents.

She told police the men came to her home without her permission and started a fight with four people who were at the home, and Morrison had a rifle.

  The men left in a Dodge Stratus, which was involved in a chase with Spokane police that night.

A police dog helped locate the driver, McDonald after he fled the car. Morrison turned himself into police later that day. Both suspects remain in jail.

$200k bond for man jailed after standoff

A 24-year-old man prohibited from possessing firearms because of a felony conviction remains in jail on $200,000 bond after he was arrested during a SWAT team standoff early Wednesday.

 Jeffrey C. Salvage appeared in Spokane County Superior Court on a charge of first-degree robbery after two women were confronted at 3006 N. Hamilton Street  at 10:40 p.m. Tuesday by two men, one of whom was armed with a handgun, accoridng to the Spokane Police Department.

The gunman demanded their purses, and the women dropped them and ran, police said. The second man told the gunman “don't touch them” and was detained for questioning but not arrested, according to court documents.

The man told police he'd been drinking with Salvage and other friends when Salvage went outside with a gun, gunshots sounded, and he came back inside and said he was out of bullets. The alleged robbery occurred about an hour or two later, according to court documents.

Police recovered a Bryco Arms. 380 semi-automatic pistol while executing a search warrant at 2924 N. Hamilton, where a several-hour SWAT team standoff led to Salvage's arrest. They also recovered a debit card stolen in the robbery; other items were found in the street.

Salvage has previous felony convictions for second-degree burglary and second-degree robbery, as well as money laundering and riot.

Photos show gunpoint Subway robbery

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Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that identify a gunman who robbed a South Hill Subway sandwich shop in July.

Surveillance photos show a man in a gray long-sleeved shirt, white shorts and white shoes at the Subway at 3014 E. 29th Ave. on July 6.

The man entered the store at 8:40 p.m. and demanded money from the store clerk. He displayed what appeared to be a handgun and left with an undisclosed amount of cash. The employee was not injured.

Anyone with information on the robbery is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters do not have to give their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

Felon indicted in stolen firearms probe

A Spokane man arrested in an undercover police probe into illegal firearm sales has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Jeffery S. Finney, 31, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of unlawful possession and sale of a stolen firearm, unlawful possession and disposition of a stolen firearm and felon in possession of firearm and ammunition.

Finney was arrested in March after selling two guns to a confidential informant who was working with the Spokane Police Department's drug unit. Police followed Finney and the informant to a location in north Spokane County, where Finney picked up three other firearms for sale.

Police executed a search warrant at Finney's apartment, 13110 N. Addison St., and seized methamphetamine, scales and packaging materials, according to an affidavit.

Finney is a convicted felon, which prohibits him from possessing weapons. His felony convictions include delivery of methamphetamine, third-degree assault and second-degree burglary.

In 2001, he fled the Public Safety Building just as a judge was to sentence him to jail for domestic violence. He was caught hiding behind a garbage bin behind Russell Van Camp's now-former law office west of the courthouse on West Broadway Avenue, according to news archives.

Finney is to be arraigned on the federal charges Friday and remains in the Spokane County Jail.

Spokane K-9 nabs carjacking suspect

A carjacking suspect led police on a chase early Sunday morning, but his attempt to escape on foot was foiled by a Spokane Police Department search dog.

A man reported that he was parked outside the Holiday Gas Station at 9620 N. Division Street just before 3:30 a.m. while a friend was inside. He was approached by someone who pulled a gun on him and told him to get out of his silver Toyota Camry, according to a Police Department press release. Police responded and spotted the car 25 minutes later driving north on Division past the same gas station where the car was stolen.

There was a short chase until the man  jumped from the still moving car and ran, the press release said. Police officers, assisted by the Washington State Patrol, searched the area and found a handgun holster in an apartment complex courtyard just east of Ritter's Nursery.

The dog, Leo, and his handler, Officer Craig Hamilton, found the suspect inside the fenced nursery. Justin S. Brown, 29, was booked into jail on charges of first-degree robbery, second-degree burglary and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

The gun believed to be used in the carjacking was later recovered in the same area the holster was found.

Guns seized in Valley SWAT team raid

A theft investigation led to a SWAT team raid at a Spokane Valley home Wednesday, where detectives seized several suspected stolen firearms.

Donald Jay Patterson, Jr., 42, was arrested as a search warrant was executed at a home in the 3300 block of East 35th Avenue, where police found five guns believed to have been stolen from a home in the 2800 block of North University Road. 

Patterson was stopped in a white Ford Mustang as he drove away from the home after being notified of the search warrant, according to court documents.

Police believe Kevin Robert Boler, 43, brought the stolen guns to the home. He was arrested in the 12000 block of East Valleyway Avenue.

The case began as a burglary, vehicle prowling and identity theft investigation. Police obtained surveillance footage showing suspects t later identified as Jermaine J. “Solo” Hockaday, 31, Justin E. Mueller, 30, and Marcella R. Walther, 34.

Mueller and Walther told police last week that they were “tired of their life style” and said they were angry at a man named Kevin “who kept a hold over them with an ever rising drug debt they owed him,” according to court documents.

Mueller is in jail on theft and vehicle prowling charges. Hockaday is in Geiger Corrections Center on identity theft and stolen property charges. Walther was released after no charges were filed.

Patterson is in jail on charges of possession of a stolen firearm and felon in possession of a firearm. Boler is jailed on five counts of possession of a stolen firearm.

Suspect at large in trailer park fight

Spokane police are looking for a 24-year-old man after a fight at a trailer park that involved a gun early today.

Julian D. Morrison (right) is wanted for first-degree burglary and is considered armed after an incident at the Wishing Well trailer park, 4911 N. Florida St.

Officers arrived about 1:37 a.m. and were told by a woman that an acquaintance had entered her home, assaulted someone and brandished a gun before leaving in a Dodge Stratus driven by another man, according to a news release.

 Officer Mike McCasland spotted the Stratus at North Freya Street and East Empire Avenue as officers were responding to the scene. The driver refused to stop and jumped out of the car with his passenger at East Buckeye Avenue and North Stone Street, police say.The vehicle stopped after hitting a curb.

Officer Craig Hamilton and his K-9, Leo, located the driver, 31-year-old Josephus McDonald, in the 2600 block of North Lee Street. He was booked into jail on charges of first-degree burglary and attempt to elude police.

McDonald (pictured left in 2007) has been described by police as a founder of one of Spokane's larger homegrown Crips gangs, according to this 2007 article.

Anyone with information on Morrison's location is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Speeding I-90 driver arrested with pistol

A motorist stopped for driving 83 mph in a 70 mph zone Monday was arrested on felony charges after Spokane County sheriff's deputies found marijuana and a loaded pistol in the vehicle.

Juan C. Cervantes, 22, of Moses Lake, was stopped on Interstate 90 about 2 p.m. after deputies Jeffrey Thurman and Chuck Sciortino noted he was speeding and driving a Chevrolet Tahoe registered to a woman with a suspended license and warrant for city theft, according to a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan.
 
The owner, Tina M. Zarate, 28, of Moses Lake, was in the passenger's seat. Deputies say they smelled a strong odor of marijuana” and were told by Cervantes that his license was suspended and thee was a small amount of marijuana in the Tahoe, Reagan said.
 
Zarate and Cervantes gave deputies permission to search the vehicle, where they found a glass pipe with partially burnt marijuana and a loaded Rossi .38 caliber pistol wrapped in a bandanna. The gun's serial number had been filed off, Reagan said.
 
Cervantes has four previous felony convictions, which prohibit him from possessing weapons. He was booked into jail on charges of altering/obliterating identification marks on a firearm, first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of marijuana and third-degree driving while license suspended. 
 
 Zarate’s warrant was non-extraditable, so Sciortino cited and released her for possession of marijuana. 

Crime Stoppers targets 2 drug suspects

Crime Stoppers is offering rewards for tips that lead to the arrest of two accused drug dealers.

Tysen R. Foster, 25, is charged with four drug felonies related to alleged cocaine transactions with confidential informants in February, March and April, and from a jail strip searched that revealed cocaine in his anus, according to court documents.

A $20,000 arrest warrant was issued Aug. 15 after Foster didn't show up for his arraignment.

Also wanted is Darcy Deanne Kern, 44, who is accused of selling heroin on two occasions last summer. She also faces possession charges for heroin that was found during a traffic stop on Aug. 18, 2010. Kern told detectives she bought the heroin in Seattle, according to court documents.

Police found a Jennings .22 caliber semi-automatic in her 2001 Pontiac Grand Prix, which she's prohibited from possessing because of a previous felony drug conviction, documents say.

Kern is charged with second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and four felony drug charges. A $5,000 arrest warrant was issued Aug. 17 after she didn't show up for an arraignment.

Kern, 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds, last gave a home address in the 5800 block of North Elgin Street in Spokane County.

Foster, 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds, is a transient, accoridng to Crime Stoppers.

Anyone with information on their current location is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters do not have to give their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

$100k in jewelry found after safe heist

About $100,000 in stolen jewelry was recovered Thursday after police arrested a burglary suspect who claimed to be addicted to OxyContin.

Cody Michael Sutton, 20, is accused of burglarizing a home in Veradale after the owner's 12-year-old son allowed him inside about 4 p.m. thinking he knew his father, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Sutton left the home in a Jeep while carrying a resident's pink gym bag after the boy saw him going through kitchen cabinets, the Sheriff's Office said. The boy discovered his parents' safe containing the jewelry missing, and his mother called a family friend who said the suspect description sounded like Sutton.

A sheriff's deputy spotted the bag inside the Jeep outside Sutton's apartment in the 1700 block of North Union. Deputy Darrell Rohde and other deputies saw gold jewelry spread out on a table when another man responded to a knock on at Sutton's apartment door.

“The man was standing as if to hide something behind him,” according to a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan. “When Rohde told him to show his hands, the man dropped a handgun to the floor.”

Deputies handcuffed the apartment's six occupants for safety purposes and seized the pistol, which was loaded an had an obliterated serial number.

Nearly all stolen items were recovered “with the notable exception of a three carat diamond ring,” Reagan said.

Rohde believes the safe was dumped along Saltese Road, but it has not been located.

Sutton was booked into jail for residential burglary and possession of a controlled substance  for Suboxone found in his backpack, Reagan said.

Middle-finger salute leads to gunfire

A father and son were arrested Wednesday after a neighborhood dispute that began with a middle finger led to a pistol being fired into the ground.

Stephan R. Day, 53 is accused of firing the pistol while his son, Stephan D. Day, 18, is accused of trying to hide his father's guns before police arrived. Police say the incident began about 9:15 p.m. when the elder Day “extended his middle finger” at a neighbor and his friends, according to a news release by Spokane Valley police Sgt. Dave Reagan.

The neighbor said Day has a history of harassment. He and his friends were leaving when Day again flipped them off, so they “decided to return and respond in kind,” Reagan said. Day retrieved a .44-caliber pistol from his home and fired it into the ground at the men's feet, who retreated and called 911. No one was injured.

Police arrived to find the victims hiding behind a car and saw a man later identified as Day, Jr., drop a gun over the fence at the home. Police ordered him to drop the weapon and located three rifles on the ground, as well as two guns along the fence line. Day, Jr., was arrested for possession of a pistol by a minor and evidence tampering.

His father, who has felony convictions that prohibit him from possessing firearms, was arrested for five counts of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and single counts of harassment – threats to kill and reckless endangerment.

Police seized the pistol as well as a .330-magnum rifle, a 7mm rifle, a .45-caliber muzzle-loader rifle and a final rifle of unknown caliber. The Days are due in Superior Court today.

More charges in Colville murder probe

A 26-year-old man has been charged with stealing the firearm that was then used to kill a Stevens County man and retired U.S. Navy SEAL in what investigators believe was a botched burglary.

 Christopher George Nichols (left) remains in the Stevens County Jail on $500,000 bond after pleading not guilty last week to nine counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, nine counts of theft of a firearm, and single counts of residential burglary, theft of a motor vehicle and trafficking in stolen property in the first degree. 

Detectives believe Nichols, a convicted felon, burglarized the home of Robert Hannigan, 3294-H Bradeen Road, on June 28, with Eric Lee Booth, 26, (right) who is accused of shooting Gordon Feist to death on July 17.

Feist served three tours in Vietnam as a U.S Navy Seal and it was considered in character for him to confront prowlers outside his upscale home south of Colville, according to a police report. Booth had worked at the home before; detectives believe he told Feist he'd run out of gas when he was confronted, and that Feist trusted him and let his guard down.

The 63-year-old retiree was shot to death as he gave Booth a ride on his utility vehicle to his supposedly out-of-gas car, detectives believe, leading the vehicle to crash into a power pole. Booth was arrested three days later after a Washington Department of Corrections officer noticed cuts on his face consistent with the crash while talking to Booth's brother. It took four officers to restrain Booth and place his in handcuffs, according to a police report. He'd told his family he'd been injured in a motorcycle crash. When his mother learned he was a suspect in Feist's death, she approached him and yelled “Eric what the **** are you doing? Gordon is a family friend,” according to the report.

Booth told deputies he burglarized Hannigan's home with Nichols, and deputies located two stolen rings through the Spokane pawn shop database. Nichols denied pawning the items, but a receipt at Pawn 1 in North Spokane was signed by him, according to police.

 According to a previous report, Booth told detectives that 27-year-old Jesse J. Fellman-Shimmin (left) and 26-year-old Collette M. Pierce were with him during the botched burglary at Feist's home.

Fellman-Shimmin remains in custody at the Ferry County Jail on a hold from the state Department of Corrections.

Pierce pleaded guilty to the drug charge last week and was sentenced to 90 days at the Stevens County Jail. Booth faces $750,000 bail for murder, burglary and gun charges. The investigation into Feist's death is ongoing.

Past coverage:

Aug. 2: Murder suspect may claim insanity

July 21: Police think botched theft led to murder near Colville

July 20: Slaying near Colville baffles neighbors

Iraqi-Mexican drug ring busted in Calif.

United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy talks about the indictments evolving from arrest made in the undercover operation involving Iraqi Immigrants and Mexican drug cartels at a news conference Thursday in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

By JULIE WATSON,Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Federal officials said Thursday they've busted a drug trafficking ring involving Mexico's most powerful cartel and members of an Iraqi immigrant community in the U.S. who were caught selling illegal drugs, assault rifles, grenades and homemade explosives.

About 60 people from the Iraqi community were arrested after a six-month investigation carried out by the Drug Enforcement Administration and police in the city of El Cajon, a working-class city east of San Diego.

Many of the suspects are Iraqi Chaldeans — Christians who fled their homeland amid threats from al-Qaida and other extremists. Police say at least some of those arrested are suspected of being affiliated with the Chaldean Organized Crime Syndicate, an Iraqi gang based in Detroit.

Authorities say the suspects were working out of an Iraqi social club in El Cajon and shipping drugs supplied by Mexico's powerful Sinaloa cartel to Detroit, home to the largest Chaldean population in the United States, according to the federal indictment unsealed Thursday. El Cajon has the second largest Chaldean population.

 Officials were tipped off after neighbors and even some of the club members' spouses complained for years about the establishment's criminal activity, which has included attempted murder, sales of meth and marijuana, gambling and illegal firearms sales.

Authorities seized 18 pounds of methamphetamine, narcotics, cocaine and other drugs; more than 3,500 pounds of marijuana; $630,000 in cash; four IEDs; and more than 30 guns, including assault rifles.

In April, a DEA undercover operative was shown a hand grenade by one of the Iraqis and was told additional grenades were available from a Mexican military source.

2nd suspect arrested in hotel stabbing

Spokane police on Wednesday arrested a second suspect for an attempted gunpoint robbery at a motel last month.

Walter S. Reiter, 31, is due in Superior Court this afternoon on robbery, assault and unlawful possession of a firearm charges for an incident at the Comfort Inn, 923 E. 3rd Ave., on July 25.

A TV station employee recognized Reiter and suspect Jason M. Doyle, 32, from surveillance photos released to media.

The tipster told police he's known Reiter and Doyle since middle school and that suspects are best friends. Doyle was arrested last week on charges of first-degree attempted robbery, first-degree assault and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

The victim, Dustin T. Hayes, of Omak, told police he was staying with his girlfriend at the motel when he was assaulted by two men and threatened with a shotgun.

He said he prevented the men from taking his duffel bag “even though they were overpowering him and he was being stabbed,” according to court documents. Hayes wrestled the shotgun away from the men, but one grabbed it as the fled the motel. The men also stole Hayes' Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap after they couldn't get the duffel bag, police said.

Hayes said he didn't know the men but believes they were trying to rob him because they thought he had money in the duffel bag.

2 arrested in gunpoint home-invasion

A gunpoint home-invasion robbery in southwest Spokane County early Wednesday led to the arrest of two men.

Mario Casillas, 42, and James T. Harris, 36, are accused of forcing their way into a rental unit at in the 6200 block of South Pendell Lane about 1:15 a.m. and stealing money at gunpoint.

The victim, Nick Wright, told police he was struck in the head and threatened with the gun while the men said he owed them money, but the victim said he'd never met the men.

Police recovered $350, Wright's driver's license and other stolen property after stopping the suspects at North Nevada Street and East Garland Avenue. Their car had grass stuck in it that was consistent with vehicle marks left on the grass outside the victim's flat, according to court documents.

Harris and Casillas were booked into Spokane County Jail for first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary.

Casillas has had a felony warrant out for his arrest since March because he didn't submit a DNA sample after a felony protection-order violation conviction.

Spokane man sues over Abu Dhabi arrest

A retired Air Force officer in Spokane says a series of blunders involving international airlines and a global security contractor in Iraq led to his incarceration in a vermin-infested Middle Eastern prison.

A complaint recently filed in U.S. District Court in Eastern Washington alleges James H. Hunter followed proper procedures for transporting personal firearms on a trip to Iraq in 2008 but was jailed after an airline sent him to another country and his employer denied knowing him.

“He suffered 60 days of frightening existence in one of the world’s most notorious prisons,” said Hunter’s lawyer, Thatcher Stone, of New York. “He picked up all sorts of illnesses when he was there, some of which have cleared up and some of which he still has.” Stone is handling the case with Coeur d’Alene lawyer Nicolas Vieth.

Read the rest of my story here.

Militia leader sentenced in grenade case

A self-described militia leader will spend a year and a day in prison for making grenades that he said were to fight off a communist invasion.

Kenneth B. Kimbley Jr., 60, was given an exceptionally low sentence this week in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene after his public defender described his health problems, which include lung cancer. He'll be on home detention for one year after his release, serve three years probation and is to perform 100 hours of community service.

Federal prosecutors had requested he be sentenced to 46 months in prison for amassing a a weapons collection at his property at 28128 Highway 4, just south of Spirit Lake, where he was arrested on July 3, 2010, while making grenades with other militia members.

He pleaded guilty in November to unlawful possession of a firearm and attempt to make a firearm in violation of the National Firearms Act.

Kimbley had previously discussed bombing local bridges with an undercover federal agent and made threatening statements toward President Barack Obama, according to court papers, but his lawyer, Kim Deater, said he never threatened anyone and was simply saying things similar to what his idol, Glenn Beck, says.

Codefendent Steven E. Winegar, 52, of Harpster, Idaho, was sentenced last month to eight months of house arrest and five years of probation for illegal possessing a .45 pistol.

An undercover agent had been tracking the men through their militia ties since at least October 2009, when he first saw Kimbley with an AK-47 equipped with an electronic optical sight and bought a .22-caliber Ruger handgun from him.

Kimbley was convicted of felony aggravated assault in 2004, which means he's prohibited from possessing firearms.

Retired Spokesman-Review reporter Bill Morlin covered Kimbley's sentencing for the Southern Poverty Law Center. He reports that Judge Edward Lodge said it was “far-fetched” to think the arsenal of weapons and homemade bombs “would have any impact one way or another if there was an invasion from a communist country.” Read Morlin's story here.

Man arrested w/ gun at Newman Lake

A man was arrested with a gun in the Newman Lake area Saturday after threatening two people, officials said.

Edwin J. Valenzuela, 59, told deputies two men attacked him and punched him in his recently installed pacemaker, so he displayed his gun.

But the victims, including Jeffrey Morse, president of the homeowner's association, said Valenzuela had contacted residents at 11733 N. Honeymoon Bay looking for a key to the boat slip area about 9:45 p.m. and became angry when a woman said she didn't have one, officials say.

Morse and Lyle Putz went to give Valenzuela a key, but Valenzuela grabbed Putz around the neck and held a gun to his head, according to court documents. The men said Valenzuela repeatedly called them racial epithets that incorrectly describe their race.
  

Valenzuela was arrested, and deputies say they found a black pistol with two loaded magazines in his room.

He was released from jail on his own recognizance Monday after appearing in court on two counts of first-degree assault.

Downtown hotel robbed at gunpoint

A Spokane man robbed a downtown hotel at gunpoint recently, police say.

Alexander Feliciano, 44, is accused of stealing a $100 bill, along with a stack of $1 and $5 bills, after threatening a clerk at the Days Inn hotel, 120 W. 3rd Ave., with a gun about 6:15 p.m. on Saturday, according to police.

The robber first asked about the price of a room before walking around the counter while holding the gun in both hands and saying “Why don't you just show me where the money is at? Get on the ground so you don't get hurt,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

The robber fled eastbound on 3rd Avenue in a silver Pontiac Vibe, which police spotted a short while later. They arrested Feliciano and recovered $246.

The suspect was booked on a first-degree robbery charge at the Spokane County Jail, where he remains on $40,000 bond.

Judge skeptical of Hells Angel plea deal

Hells Angels sergeant-at-arms Ricky W. Jenks pleaded guilty in federal court in Spokane today to a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, but the judge handling the case said he wants more time before accepting the plea.

U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush questioned why federal prosecutors accepted the plea agreement calling for only two years in prison when Jenks faced twice that prison time had the case proceeded to trial.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

March 7: Jenks' arrest pleases '01 victim's mother

March 31: Grand jury indicts Hells Angels leader

Brothers accused of gunpoint drug rip

Two brothers are accused of robbing a man at gunpoint after arranging a drug deal in a grocery store parking lot.

Jason D. Pegram, 30, and Kyle E. Pegram, 29, are in jail on robbery charges after they were arrested Sunday after a man told police he'd been robbed in the Fred Meyer parking lot at 400 S. Thor St. about 8:25 p.m.

Pegram told police he gave the victim a bag of white flour instead of drugs and received $180, but police believe he also threatened the victim with a gun.

Police searched an apartment at 803 E. Hartson Ave., where Jason Pegram lives with his mother. Police recovered a black BB gun from the home, which they say resembles a semi-automatic handgun.

Kyle Pegram denied involvement, but police say they developed information that connected him to the crime.

The brothers remain in jail on first-degree robbery charges.