A 45-year-old man pleaded innocent Thursday to allegations he claimed to be a firefighter when he convinced two boys to leave their locked car and go with him inside a Kennewick store to find their mother.
Christopher Stanley Olson is charged in Benton County Superior Court with one count of unlawful imprisonment. Trial is scheduled Sept. 17.
He is being held in the Benton County jail on $10,000 bail, in addition to a state Department of Corrections warrant for an unrelated case, Deputy Prosecutor Christine Bennett told the court.
Olson's court-appointed lawyer Gary Metro said he will address his client's bail status at a future hearing.
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According to court documents, the Kennewick man was in the Walmart parking lot around 1:45 p.m. July 21 when he saw two children in a car without an adult.
Olson "told them that he was a firefighter and that they had to go inside Walmart to find their mother, and that the mother was going to be arrested for leaving them in the car," Prosecutor Andy Miller wrote in the charging documents.
The boys, ages 7 and 13, reportedly were locked inside the car with the air conditioning on. The older boy was left in the car to watch his sibling.
The younger brother began crying as Olson took them from the car into the store, Miller said. Olson did not know the boys, and the mother did not give him permission to take the children, documents said.
The children were not hurt, but Kennewick police called it a "potential tragic situation."
The mother had taken her 4-year-old daughter into the store.
She had been inside about 20 minutes when the incident occurred, but told the Herald her parents had been parked about four spots down from her car for the first 15 minutes. She was preparing to check out when her oldest son reportedly called her from a cellphone, so she met them near the store entrance.
Police said when Olson approached the car, he flashed his wallet as if he was showing identification and demanded the boys roll down a window. He also was wearing a T-shirt that identified a fire department from the west side of the state, but Olson is not a firefighter, police said.
Olson reportedly consumed nine cans of Mike's Hard Lemonade inside his car and was intoxicated. Officers who interviewed Olson said he couldn't explain why he didn't call police if he was concerned about the boys' safety, except to say he didn't want police involved.
Authorities said the mother's actions were not illegal in leaving the boys alone.
The woman told the Herald that Olson was parked two spots from her car and recorded her with his cellphone as she loaded groceries into her car. She initially didn't report the interaction but after talking to her boys and a relative, returned 90 minutes later to the South Quillan Street parking lot, found his car still there and wrote down the license plate number.
Olson was ordered Thursday to have no contact with the mother or the two boys while the case is pending.
Tennessee man pleads innocent to stealing from elderly shoppers
A 21-year-old man is accused of targeting older female shoppers and swiping their wallets from carts.
Joshua Devon Babb pleaded innocent to one count each of second- and third-degree theft and possession of hydrocodone. His trial is set for Sept. 17.
Prosecutors allege that on July 27, Babb and Erica Kennedy struck up a conversation with an 81-year-old woman in the hair product aisle at the Richland Walmart. While Babb talked with the older woman about shampoo, the victim allegedly noticed Kennedy's hand near her purse in the shopping cart.
Babb then ended their conversation and the pair left. That's when the woman checked and discovered her coin purse was missing from her purse, documents said.
She quickly reported the theft to a loss prevention officer who called police because "the two fit the description of a woman and a man who were suspected in prior thefts from customers' purses," court documents said.
Babb and Kennedy still were in the store when Richland officers responded. They found a hydrocodone pill in a baggie on Babb, in addition to a wallet concealed in his underwear, documents said.
The wallet, which contained multiple credit cards including a Wells Fargo Visa, belonged to another woman, documents said. That woman had not yet left Walmart and told police that the wallet was inside her hat in her cart, and she realized it was gone when she went to pay for her merchandise.
Babb was in custody at the time of Thursday's court hearing. The deputy prosecutor, Christine Bennett, said she was OK with setting his bail at $1,000 because she is awaiting additional police reports.
Babb moved to the Tri-Cities from Tennessee, where he has a recent criminal history for assault and drug charges, Bennett said.
Kennedy has not been charged in Superior Court, according to online court records.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org