Masked intruders may have been looking for marijuana during two recent home invasions in Kennewick where a gun and bats were used to injure residents.
Police said it's too early in the investigation to connect the home invasions, which took place less than two weeks apart and within blocks of each other.
In both cases, the front doors of the apartments on the 1100 block of West 10th Avenue and 1100 block of South Newport Street were kicked in, said Sgt. Ken Lattin. Several masked suspects entered the apartments with weapons, then attacked residents.
The attacks -- which left one man with a bullet lodged in his neck -- sent four people to local hospitals. The first home invasion happened Oct. 25 and the second Tuesday night at the Hawaiian Village Apartments.
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The suspects demanded marijuana during the first incident, and police believe the victims in both attacks may have had access to medical marijuana, Lattin said.
A qualifying patient with a medical marijuana card can legally have up to 15 marijuana plants and 24 ounces of pot, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
Lattin did not say if any marijuana was taken from either apartment. Investigators do not believe the apartments had marijuana plants in them or were being used as grow operations.
"The message here is this is not the first or second time we have seen this happen," he said. "You don't tell the world 'hey, by the way I'm using marijuana,' because it makes you a target. Marijuana has street value."
In the October break-in, several suspects broke through the door of Steven Kravarik's place around 11:30 p.m., officials said. They forced him and a 19-year-old male to the ground and demanded marijuana. One of the suspects pistol-whipped the teen and shot Kravarik in the arm.
The bullet went through the 31-year-old's arm and lodged in his neck. He was treated and released from Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland. Police said the teen was treated at a local hospital.
Tuesday's break-in was eerily similar and just as violent as the one in October.
A group of four masked men knocked down the door to the apartment around 10:30 p.m., officials said. The men started to beat Aaron E. McLaughlin and a 19-year-old with baseball bats.
It's unclear if anything was taken during the break-in or if the suspects demanded marijuana, Lattin said.
Both victims were taken to Trios Health in Kennewick with head injuries. McLaughlin, 32, and the teen were treated and released.
Officials did not release specific descriptions of the intruders or give an exact number for how many suspects were involved in the first break-in. No arrests had been made Wednesday.
-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Ty_richardson