Crime

Rape suspect missed 40 court dates before chase through Tri-Cities

Rape suspect who tried to dodge cops appears in Franklin Superior court

Deputy Prosecutor Frank Jenny outlines the criminal history of rape suspect Richard Vasquez for Judge Jackie Shea Brown when making his $500,000 bail request.
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Deputy Prosecutor Frank Jenny outlines the criminal history of rape suspect Richard Vasquez for Judge Jackie Shea Brown when making his $500,000 bail request.

A Pasco man missed 40 court dates and tried to escape police three times before Wednesday’s harrowing chase through the Tri-Cities.

Richard Vasquez, 30, appeared in Franklin County Superior Court to face charges of first-degree rape and unlawful imprisonment.

The Pasco man triggered a pursuit Wednesday through Kennewick, Richland and into Benton County that police reported reached 120 mph.

Deputy Prosecutor Frank Jenny asked Judge Jackie Shea Brown to set a $500,000 bail for Vasquez.

Jenny said Vasquez has nine previous felony convictions, including three for eluding police, and 25 misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors between 2001-14.

Along with the alleged rape, Vasquez was also wanted for a violating his release from prison.

“Clearly, he presents a great danger to the community,” Jenny said.

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Benton County sheriff’s Sgt. Jason Erickson looks on as a Nissan Altima allegedly driven by Richard Vasquez hits other cars to escape a spike strip Wednesday. Pasco Police Department

Public defender Michael Quillen reserved argument on bail.

Pasco police say Vasquez was at the center of a three-week search in connection with a Jan. 17 rape in the Rodeway Inn.

The victim allegedly dropped Vasquez off and was in the room with him when she started to get uncomfortable.

Court documents say she was trying to leave when Vasquez allegedly threw her to the ground, knocking her out.

When she woke, he was raping her, court documents say.

She was able to escape when he appeared to have an episode because of an overdose.

A warrant was issued for his arrest Jan. 25.

Pasco police officials say officers spotted Vasquez get into a red Nissan Altima outside of an apartment complex on the 4300 block of West Hood Avenue.

Officers confronted him and he took off.

During the chase, there was a woman and two children in the Nissan Altima with him.

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Pasco police on Wednesday pull Richard Vasquez out of a Nissan Altima on Interstate 82. Pasco Police Department

The chase went through Kennewick before ending up on Highway 240.

Pasco police said Benton County sheriff’s Sgt. Jason Erickson prepared spike strips on the highway, but the Altima crossed the median, headed the wrong way on 240.

Erikson ran across the median to reset the strips.

Vasquez avoided them by hitting two police cars and one other car. He took off west on 240.

Pasco police Sgt. Scott Warren said the damage to the police cars was minor enough for them to drive away.

The pursuit continued onto Interstate 182 and finally I-82 before Washington state Trooper Andres Martinez used spike strips to pop one of the Altima’s tires.

Vasquez tried to exit at Dallas Road, investigators said.

Pasco Sgt. Bill Parramore forced Vasquez off the road with his patrol car. Other patrol cars trapped Vasquez, and Pasco police took him into custody without incident.

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Pasco police take Richard Vasquez into custody Wednesday after a chase across the Tri-Cities. Pasco Police Department

Kennewick and Richland officers also assisted in the chase.

Pasco officials said each high-speed chase has to be weighed with two factors in mind: the risk that the chase poses to the public, and the risk the suspect presents to the community if not immediately arrested.

In its Facebook thread on the chase, Pasco officials said they would have re-evaluated the chase had they known about the two children in the back of the car.

“We are trained to manage risk, but we can’t eliminate it,” officials said. “Some people had cars bent, but in the end, a rape victim knew that the suspect was now finally in jail.”

Any charges related to the chase will be forwarded onto the Benton County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Cameron Probert: 509-582-1402, @cameroncprobert

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