An Oregon man found hiding inside the JCPenney store in Kennewick early Wednesday claims he’s financially strapped and came to the Tri-Cities to try to sell a ring.
Douglas Kent Harper, 65, reportedly told Kennewick police that after missing his bus back to Pendleton, he waited inside a dressing room until the store closed and intended to stay the night.
But at 1:51 a.m., an employee with the Columbia Center mall store called 911 after alarms were triggered inside the west entrance, near the jewelry area.
Kennewick and Richland officers surrounded the 1321 N. Columbia Center Blvd. store before finding Harper in a fitting room, according to court documents.
Harper was booked into the Benton County jail on an investigative hold for second-degree burglary, and as a fugitive from justice because he has a felony warrant from Oregon.
Later Wednesday morning, he appeared before Judge Joe Burrowes with Benton County District Court and was ordered held without bail for 72 hours while prosecutors review the case.
Burrowes appointed an attorney with the Office of Public Defense to represent Harper.
Harper appeared hours later down the hallway in Benton County Superior Court on an extradition request from Umatilla County.
Judge Vic VanderSchoor read from the paperwork that Harper is wanted in Oregon for a bad check and theft of services.
Harper was told he can demand that the state of Oregon “show good cause” why he should be returned.
Harper said he wanted a lawyer and was appointed Michelle Alexander. A hearing on the extradition request is set for Dec. 26. VanderSchoor set bail on the warrant at $15,000.
Prosecutors have through Friday to charge Harper with the JCPenney incident or release him.
Documents presented to Burrowes in District Court show Harper was interviewed at the Kennewick Police Department before being taken to jail. He claimed that he came to town on a bus from Pendleton and tried to sell a ring at a West Clearwater Avenue jewelry store, court documents said. The store would not take the ring.
“Douglas admitted he is in dire financial circumstances,” documents said.
Since he missed the return bus, he decided to hide and wait until JCPenney closed so he could stay the night inside the store, court documents said. When officers found Harper in a fitting room, he allegedly was wearing a JCPenney jacket under his own jacket.
Officers said it’s clear that when Harper was alone in the middle of the night, he was walking near the valuable items in the store based on where the alarms were triggered, documents said.
A police dog was used to search the rest of the building after Harper’s arrest. No one else was found.
Benton County sheriff’s deputies handled emergency calls in Kennewick while police were handling the mall burglary.