Jury acquits Benton City man in assault case

A 40-year-old man was acquitted Tuesday evening of charges that he punched a Benton City bar patron and drove his friend from the scene after a stabbing.

The jury took about 1 1/2 hours to discuss the Benton County Superior Court case against John Douglas Engelke before announcing they had a verdict at 6:10 p.m.

Jurors then returned to the courtroom before Judge Cameron Mitchell and handed over not-guilty verdicts for first-degree rendering criminal assistance and fourth-degree assault.

Prosecutors had claimed Engelke played a role in the May 9 incident outside The Palm tavern. He was accused of punching John Burnett and driving friend Craig Shumock, 43, back to his house after Shumock allegedly stabbed Burnett four or five times.

Engelke told authorities he wasn't aware at the time that Burnett had been stabbed. He refuted prosecution claims that he'd been kicked out of the bar and said he and Shumock acted in self-defense.

Engelke previously told the Herald he "made the mistake of sticking up for a friend of mine, and I got attacked for it." He said he lost his Hanford job and spent four days in jail "for something I didn't do."

Shumock faces a Jan. 3 trial for assault with a deadly weapon.