KENNEWICK — A Kennewick man pleaded innocent to allegations he punched a security officer in the face while trying to steal 25 bottles of cologne and perfume from a Columbia Center mall store.
Joselito Penaflor, 36, entered the plea to second-degree robbery in Benton County Superior Court. His trial is set for March 7.
According to Kennewick police and court documents, a JCPenney loss prevention officer watched on Dec. 26 as Penaflor selected the bottles and placed them in a black mesh store shopping bag. The total value of the merchandise was $1,641.
Penaflor then walked to another department within the store and tried hiding the mesh bag inside a plastic JCPenney shopping bag, documents said.
He allegedly walked past the cash registers and exited the store without paying for any of the concealed items.
Once outside, Penaflor was confronted by the security officer, who identified herself and tried to restrain the shoplifting suspect by holding onto his arm. However, Penaflor punched the woman in the face, ran away and shouted, "I will (expletive) you up," as she chased him, court documents said.
Other officers lost sight of Penaflor, who reportedly dumped the bag as he was fleeing.
Kennewick police then turned to the Tri-City media for help in identifying the suspect from a store security video.
Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers received multiple calls on Penaflor, including from co-workers who recognized the hat and jacket he was wearing, documents said.
Those co-workers also reportedly told police that Penaflor had changed his appearance since the picture was in the media by shaving off his sideburns and changing his hairstyle.
Penaflor was not scheduled to work Dec. 26, and five days later called his boss to say his father had died in the Philippines and he would be gone for two weeks to attend the funeral.
Then on Jan. 5, a neighbor reported seeing a moving van outside Penaflor's home, court documents said.
Officers served a search warrant on the home that same day and arrested Penaflor. The moving van still was at the house.
Police spoke with a Realtor who claimed that Penaflor and his wife had contacted her on Jan. 3, saying, "they needed to sell their house because they were moving to California due to not liking the weather here," documents said.
The following day, the couple allegedly told the Realtor they would be leaving Jan. 5 so Penaflor's wife could start a new job in California.
Man given 60 days for negligent driving
KENNEWICK — A 22-year-old man was sentenced to 60 days in jail for smoking marijuana before driving his car at excessive speeds and crashing into a ravine, injuring his passenger.
Robert Thomas Bowen of Benton City pleaded guilty to reduced charges of first-degree negligent driving and reckless driving, both misdemeanors. His sentence, which includes 305 days suspended, can be done on work crew or work release. He will be on supervision for two years.
Prosecutors reduced the charges from vehicular assault because the victim in the March 2 crash, Corey Williams, is Bowen's close friend and didn't want to pursue charges.
"According to the victim, (Bowen) is very remorseful and has made himself available to assist the victim while he recovered from his injuries," Deputy Prosecutor Megan Whitmire wrote in court documents.
Whitmire added that Bowen has no felony history, and that it's in the best interest of justice for him to be allowed to maintain employment so that he can repay expenses incurred in the crash.
Court documents state that Bowen was upset after an apparent fight with his wife and took off in his car. Williams went along to try to calm Bowen down.
Bowen admitted to previously using marijuana. He was driving at speeds of more than 100 mph when his car eventually went off the road near North East Roza and Acord roads in Benton City.
Benton County sheriff's deputies found the car about 50 yards down a ravine.
Both men were treated at a hospital. Williams suffered fractures to his elbow and left foot, along with numerous cuts, documents said.
* Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; email@example.com