Kennewick — A 30-year-old man pleaded innocent Thursday to charges he tried to rape an employee outside Kennewick City Hall and groped himself in front of a female police officer, just days after threatening "to take out" Mayor Steve Young.
Brandon Robert Hankel is charged in Benton County Superior Court with attempted second-degree rape, indecent exposure and harassment. His trial is set for June 24.
Hankel was arrested May 1 in Keewaydin Park when officers tracked him down after seeing him confront a city employee.
The woman in her 50s had parked in the east lot of City Hall at 7:15 a.m. and was getting out of her car when she noticed a man standing close by.
According to court documents, the man asked, "Is this where I am going to (sexually assault) you at?"
When she questioned what he'd just said to her, he repeated the comment.
The woman was scared and started to walk away, only to have him follow while saying, "Wait, wait, come back" several times, documents said.
She started to run and she eventually got into city hall and away from her would-be attacker.
Meanwhile, Cmdr. Scott Child was in his second-floor office at the Kennewick Police Department across the street when he saw the employee arrive and noticed a man who was "very animated" with raised hands, court documents said. He saw the woman shake her head as if to say "no," then she briskly walked away toward city hall.
As he watched the man follow the woman very closely with his hands extended as if to grab her, Child had no doubt in his mind that she was about to be assaulted, documents said. He rushed out of his office so fast that he left behind his police radio, but colleagues saw his quick departure and followed.
Child took Hankel into custody at the nearby park with help from Cmdr. Craig Littrell and Sgt. Mark Weber.
Hankel told Child he was just going to ask the woman for a ride, court documents said.
Later, while in a prisoner holding area at the Kennewick police station, Officer Michelle Pitts took a cup of water in to Hankel, only to have him expose and begin to touch himself, Deputy Prosecutor Terry Bloor wrote in court documents.
Detective Jack Simington also reported seeing Hankel touching himself at the station.
After Hankel's arrest, Mayor Young told police that he was leaving city hall at 7 p.m. on April 25, when a man matching Hankel's description confronted him and asked if he was the mayor.
When Young said yes, the man said, "You don't care about us" and "I can take you out," documents said.
Hankel allegedly claimed that he's a veteran and knows how to hurt people. Young believed he could carry out the threat.
Hankel has a lengthy history of arrests with cases in Benton County District and Superior Court going back to 1996 when he was a juvenile, according to online court records. The most recent felony conviction was in November for second-degree burglary.
His bail remains at $100,000.