Alleged Richland drug deal goes awry, leads to robbery charges

Two Tri-City men are locked up on allegations they forced a Richland man into a car at gunpoint and took about $200 from him during a drug deal.

Joshua J. Senn, 28, and Tantholantis R. Mielke, 26, pleaded innocent in Benton County Superior Court to first-degree robbery.

Richland police were called April 21 after the victim was dropped off, then flagged down a passerby to use a cellphone to call for help.

Alfonso Mendoza reportedly was “visibly upset and shaking” when he told officers how he’d been standing next to a car talking to an acquaintance when a passenger “stuck a gun into his side and told him to get in the vehicle or he was going to blow his brains out,” court documents said.

The acquaintance was identified as Mielke.

Mendoza said once he was in the car, Senn told Mielke to drive while threatening to shoot him, documents said.

Senn then allegedly ordered Mendoza to hand over his wallet and hit him on the side of the head.

Mendoza was dropped off in the same Richland neighborhood.

Responding officers feared that Mielke was in danger, so they tracked his cellphone to a Kennewick apartment complex, court documents said.

As police were looking for Mielke, he sent a text message to the victim claiming to have been pistol-whipped by Senn and his vehicle taken.

But officers didn’t believe Mielke since his vehicle was found near the same West 10th Avenue complex where his cellphone was located, documents said.

Mielke was taken into custody at the complex and driven to the police station to talk with investigators.

He allegedly admitted that he and Senn planned to rob Mendoza when they met with him during a drug deal.

Mielke said they were only going to take his money, then Senn pulled out his gun and threatened to shoot Mendoza, court documents said.

After releasing Mendoza, the two suspects split the cash and then Mielke dropped off Senn, documents said.

Police reportedly got video surveillance from the Queensgate dropoff site and saw Senn tossing Mendoza’s wallet into a garbage container. The wallet was later recovered.

Senn was arrested last week after a two-hour search at the Columbia Park Apartments in Richland. The Tri-City Regional SWAT team and a Kennewick police dog found Senn in an apartment.

Mielke’s trial is scheduled for June 12, while Senn has a June 19 date. They are being held on $25,000 bail each.

Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531, @KristinMKraemer