A Texas man is going to prison for two years and seven months after admitting he robbed the Finley Truck Stop of more than $300 cash and cigarettes.
Christopher Sherman pleaded guilty in Benton County Superior Court to one count of first-degree robbery for the Aug. 15 incident.
The 18-year-old told the court he had been sleeping on a park bench while visiting someone in the Tri-Cities, and claimed he got the gun used to threaten the store clerk from his co-defendant, Robert Ryan Ran Paxton.
Paxton, 21 and of Richland, is awaiting trial Dec. 10 for first-degree robbery with a deadly weapon, possession of a stolen vehicle and attempting to elude police. The eluding charge includes an aggravating allegation of endangerment.
According to police and court documents, Sherman went into the truck stop at 12:25 a.m. and pointed a gun at the clerk, demanding money and cigarettes. He then left the store.
Store security video showed two men in a Honda Accord in the area during the robbery, documents said.
Still images from the video were circulated to all Tri-City law enforcement agencies, and a Richland police officer recognized Sherman as someone he'd contacted on Aug. 11. The officer took a picture of Sherman at the time and his physical and clothing description matched the Finley robbery suspect.
Three days after the robbery, Kennewick police spotted the same Honda Accord while investigating a series of burglaries on West Metaline Avenue. Sherman was in the passenger seat.
Paxton, who was driving, allegedly refused commands by police and sped off at speeds up to 80-90 mph through residential areas, ignoring red lights and stop signs.
Officers reported that despite it being 4:30 a.m., Paxton passed by several motorists during the 15-minute chase.
A sheriff's deputy said Paxton almost ran into him, while a Kennewick officer said the Honda did hit his patrol car, police and court documents said. The chase ended when Paxton lost control of the Honda, which went off the road and hit a West Canal Drive business.
The investigation revealed that the Honda Accord had been stolen from Parra Auto Sales overnight Aug. 14, documents said. A .22-caliber handgun and ammunition were found in the car.
In his interview with police, Sherman said he and Paxton planned the robbery and that his accomplice gave him the gun, court documents said. Paxton denied giving Sherman the gun and said he didn't know the teen would use a gun, documents said.
Sherman faced up to three years and five months in prison with his guilty plea, but Deputy Prosecutor Terry Bloor recommended the sentence at the bottom of the standard range.
Defense attorney Dan Arnold argued that Sherman, who was 17 when he committed the robbery, doesn't seem to "fit the charge" since he has no criminal history. Arnold asked the judge to consider giving Sherman even less time, explaining that he had talked to his client's mother and the teen will return home to Texas once he's finished his sentence.
Judge Craig Matheson said the two-year, seven-month recommendation was appropriate given the circumstances of the crime.
"I would encourage you to make the most of your time," Matheson told Sherman. "When you get over to Shelton (Washington Corrections Center), which is your first stop, I'd tell them this is your first offense and you'd like to make the most of your time so they can kind of place you in the right place for that."
Paxton remains held in the Benton County jail on $100,000 bail.