Richland man awaits mental evaluation

By Paula Horton, Herald staff writer April 1, 2011 

A 32-year-old Richland man arrested two weeks ago after allegedly holding a former co-worker hostage is awaiting a mental evaluation in the Benton County jail.

Jonathan P. Smith, who was arrested by Richland police March 19, is being held on $500,000 bail. He is charged in Benton County Superior Court with second-degree assault, unlawful imprisonment, eluding police and third-degree malicious mischief.

Smith did not enter a plea to the charges this week because defense attorney Sal Mendoza said he is concerned about Smith's competency. A request for a mental evaluation by Eastern State Hospital already had been filed.

Smith is scheduled to be back in court on April 27.

According to court documents, Smith's wife called Richland police on the morning of March 19 to report her husband had broken two windows in their Goethals Drive home and was yelling at her incoherently.

She also said that a couple of nights earlier, Smith had fired a handgun in their home through the walls. She said he was distraught over losing his job and had become mentally unstable, documents said.

Smith's wife told officers that her husband armed himself with several weapons before leaving their home and she believed he may attempt to harm people where he used to work, documents said.

She said Smith was "capable of anything."

Officers began to search for Smith and he was spotted walking into his former workplace, Lee's Market, 5720 Van Giesen St., in West Richland.

Smith carried a tote bag inside with him, documents said.

Patrons leaving the store said Smith was inside and had a gun. A short time later, a store employee ran outside and told police that she hid in the bathroom after Smith walked in yelling, documents said.

Smith reportedly banged on the bathroom door demanding she come out, but when she opened the door and tried to walk way, he blocked her by placing his arm across her chest.

Smith allegedly told her she wouldn't be able to leave because police were after him and reached into the tote bag and pulled out a gun.

The woman managed to get away and run outside, and Smith then left and drove away, documents said.

Officers followed him until he finally stopped in the backyard of a home. They arrested him without incident.

Three guns, including one that was loaded, were found by police, documents said. The loaded gun was the weapon Smith had taken inside the store, documents said.

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