W. Richland man recovering from near-fatal stabbing

By Paula Horton, Herald staff writerMay 14, 2010 

WEST RICHLAND — An early-morning altercation outside a Benton City tavern left a West Richland man believing he was going to die after he was stabbed multiple times.

John Burnett, 37, said he was attacked without warning by two men who earlier had been asked to leave the Palm Tavern for groping women.

His alleged attackers, Craig Shumock, 42, of Sunnyside, and John Engelke, 40, of Benton City, have been charged in the assault, but Burnett and his wife, Sarah, say the charges are too lenient.

"The perception is this was a bar fight," Sarah said.

Her husband continued: "This was not a bar fight. ... These guys were ticked off and wanted revenge. It wasn't me that the revenge was supposed to be on. I was never in an altercation with those guys."

Shumock, who reportedly is an electrical engineer at Hanford, pleaded innocent Thursday in Benton County Superior Court to a charge of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon.

Deputy Prosecutor Terry Bloor also added an aggravating circumstance that Burnett suffered excessive injuries from the assault, which could lengthen Shumock's sentence if he is convicted.

His trial is set for June 6. Bail remained at $10,000.

Engelke is being charged in Benton County District Court with fourth-degree assault and first-degree rendering criminal assistance.

Engelke, who reportedly also works at Hanford, has posted $10,000 bail and is expected to enter a plea to his charges May 28.

"Where's the justice? Just because he works at Hanford and makes a little money, they're giving him a break," Burnett said, adding that Shumock and Engelke apparently have no previous criminal history. "What that tells me is if you have a clean record, you are able to do what you want at least one time. It doesn't make sense how the courts are able to determine a bail amount or right from wrong."

Burnett was stabbed once in the cheek and four times in the side and stomach area. He ended up with a collapsed lung and had to have his spleen removed. He has about 36 staples or stitches in him, including 22 right down the middle of his chest.

"On the ambulance ride, I thought my time was up," he said.

He said he didn't even realize he had been stabbed until he looked down at his stomach and side and saw he was bleeding.

"It felt like hits. I never felt the blade," Burnett said. "I happened to be lucky and had people there who weren't afraid to stick their fingers in my holes to stop the bleeding."

Burnett, who was released from Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland on Wednesday, was lying in a recliner at his home, barely able to move, as he described his ordeal.

Spasms in his stomach muscles that had to be cut through to remove the spleen are so painful they have woken him up from a deep sleep, he said.

He also gets winded just by talking, and "it hurts when I take a deep breath," he said.

Engelke is accused of punching Burnett and helping Shumock leave the scene after the stabbing.

Burnett told Benton County sheriff's detectives that he thought Engelke had stabbed him, but both suspects said Shumock was the one with the knife, court documents said.

Shumock turned over the knife, with the 4-inch blade, to detectives, documents said.

Shumock also tried to claim he acted in defense of Engelke, who was getting "manhandled" by Burnett, but the only marks Engelke had were some scrapes on his elbows, court documents said.

Shumock's "defense of others" claim also was contradicted by a witness who said he walked outside the bar and saw Burnett and Shumock fighting and Engelke watching in the background, documents said.

Burnett, who spent about eight years as a bail bonds recovery agent but now builds custom motorcycles at his Benton City shop, the Rats Nest, said he pushed the men off him but never threw a punch. He said all he was trying to do was defend himself.

Shumock and Engelke apparently were asked to leave the bar after dancing inappropriately with some women and trying to grope them.

Shumock reportedly threw a bottle as he was being escorted out and things got tense outside, so Burnett said he went out to help defuse the situation.

Burnett's friend and former co-worker, Lonn Howard, said that's the kind of person Burnett is.

"John's not the type of guy to escalate the situation, he de-escalates situations," Howard said. "John would have treated the guy the way he would want to be treated."

And Burnett said that's exactly what he did. He said the men were calmed down, he walked Shumock and Engelke to their truck and, though Engelke kept "smarting off," he shook both their hands and they drove away.

Burnett said they didn't seem angry at all and he went back into the bar.

About 20 minutes later, Engelke showed up back at the bar and asked Burnett to go outside to talk. Burnett said Engelke didn't appear mad and seemed unaggressive, so he agreed.

Once outside, however, Engelke started yelling at him, then pushed him, Burnett said. Burnett pushed back, then saw Shumock coming at him. They got hold of him, hit him and knocked him down, then when he got up, he was hit in the face, Burnett said.

The men took off when the tavern's security personnel came outside and that's when Burnett looked down and realized he had been stabbed, he said.

"A half-inch one way or another and he wouldn't be here," Howard said.

Burnett said he has a long recovery ahead of him but he feels lucky to be alive.

The Plague Riders, a motorcycle club Burnett belongs to, is organizing a poker run June 12 to help raise money for Burnett.

The ride starts at noon at Canyon Country Cycles, 6713 W. Clearwater Ave., in Kennewick, with registration at 10 a.m. It costs $20 for riders and $10 for passengers.

-- Paula Horton: 509-582-1556; phorton@tricityherald.com

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