Benton City man gets 10 years in gang shooting

A Benton City man who claims he started carrying a gun after his brother was shot was sentenced Wednesday to more than 10 years in prison for a gang shooting at a Kennewick park.

Waldemar Pimentel, 20, said in a letter to the court that he "would like to apologize to the community for my actions on June 14. I know what I did was a terrible mistake and I'm sorry."

Pimentel pleaded guilty Jan. 19 in Benton County Superior Court to first-degree assault. Prosecutors dismissed a deadly weapon enhancement against Pimentel as part of the plea agreement.

The 10-year, three-month sentence was at the top of the standard range for a crime in which a bullet barely missed a teenage boy.

Kennewick police and court documents say that Pimentel arrived at Monopoly Park in a van, jumped out and ran toward rival gang members, firing six shots from a .38-caliber gun. The gunfire missed the intended targets, but struck a nearby home, with one of the bullets passing through the computer screen where the victim sat.

The occupants of the South Elm Street home had no connection to the reported gang clash.

Pimentel surrendered June 15 while U.S. marshals and Benton County sheriff's deputies were watching his home. He led Kennewick police to the spot where he had buried the gun, documents said.

Eleven weeks earlier, Pimentel's younger brother was critically injured in a Kennewick gang-related shooting near Fourth Avenue and Vancouver Street.

Adrian Pimentel, then 18, was hit in the chest March 28. Detectives determined the incident started when three male gang members were chased down an alley by several other rival gang members in a Lincoln Town Car, who then got out of the car and started fighting the small group.

The shooting was reported by emergency room staff after Pimentel was taken to Kennewick General Hospital by friends. He was transferred to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland for treatment.

Waldemar Pimentel, in his letter before the court Wednesday, said he is not "a bad person" and never had a reason to carry a weapon until his brother was shot.

"Ever since then I have carried a weapon for fear of my life and others around me," Pimentel wrote. "I would like to apologize to the people whose house I hit and to their son who had nothing to do with the situation I was in."

Pimentel added that he had no intention of hurting the family.

"I'm terrible sorry for my actions," he said. "I thank God no one was hurt."

Suspected bank robber to have evaluation

A suspected bank robber was ordered to undergo an evaluation after his lawyer said she has questions about his mental health.

John Thomas Walker, 22, is charged with first-degree robbery for the Dec. 27 incident at Sterling Savings Bank on Vista Way.

Lawyer Sylvia Cornish said they have done some interviews in the case. But with her concerns about Walker, Cornish said an Eastern State Hospital psychiatrist needs to meet with her client before they can move forward. She asked for the evaluation to be done in the Benton County jail, where Walker is being held on $50,000 bail.

Prosecutors allege Walker told a bank teller he had a weapon and demanded the money in her drawer. After being handed about $1,800, Walker ran out of the bank, court documents said.

Walker was identified as the suspect through security camera footage and was arrested later that night in Spokane.

His Feb. 22 trial date was stricken with the evaluation request. A status hearing is set for March 9.

Kennewick man gets jail time for gun possession

A 47-year-old man will spend four months in jail for getting a gun for protection in 2009 when he believed someone was trying to hurt him and his girlfriend.

Ronald Joseph Vailencour of Kennewick reportedly had not taken his medication for a week when he developed the paranoid hallucinations.

Kennewick officers first responded to his apartment March 18, 2009, but "found nothing out of order," court documents said. Eight hours later, they were sent to the same home for reports that a man had barricaded himself and his girlfriend in the apartment in the belief that several people were trying to break in.

Vailencour came out of the apartment for police but was unmanageable and unable to follow simple instructions. He told officers "that he was afraid that armed gunmen in the apartment above his were going to hurt him and his girlfriend, and he had armed himself with a handgun," documents said.

A 9 mm pistol was found in the bed under a pillow.

Vailencour's criminal history includes King County convictions for third-degree assault in 1994 and two counts of first-degree robbery in 1988. He is not allowed to own or possess guns as a result of those convictions.

Vailencour reportedly went to a friend's house two years ago to get the pistol, knowing he shouldn't have it, and loaded it and showed his girlfriend how to use it.

He pleaded guilty Jan. 26 to second-degree unlawful possession of a gun.

The plea statement said he discussed a mental health defense with his attorney, Kevin Holt, and "believes the reduction and sentencing option outweigh my chances at trial."

Prosecutors agreed to reduce the charge from first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm because of Vailencour's "mental health issues," saying the amendment will hold him accountable and provide for treatment within the community. He must continue with his medications and counseling.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com