Crime

He’s charged with having explosives in a Richland store and at home. It’s not his first time

A Richland man caught with a powder-packed explosive inside a Richland grocery store was found to have at least two other similar devices at home, said police.

Brandon J. Starkey, 35, is awaiting trial in Benton County Superior Court for the initial incident at the Richland Safeway that led to a response by the Richland Bomb Squad.

In addition to more “improvised explosive devices,” or IEDs, packed with ball bearings and gun powder, detectives also discovered “hundreds of ammunition, guns and gun parts” in his Shasta Avenue home, police said.

He lives near Sacajawea Elementary School.

Starkey is charged with two counts each of possessing an explosive device and second-degree illegal gun possession. He has pleaded innocent and his trial is set for Dec. 2.

This is not the first time Starkey has been accused of having a homemade pipe bomb.

In 2014, he was found drunk and passed out inside his car while parked in the exact same shopping center off George Washington Way. The pipe bomb was on the front passenger seat of his Honda Accord.

Starkey told authorities at the time that he was considering killing himself with the device if contacted by police. Bomb squad members disabled the bomb made from PVC pipe.

Starkey went on to plead guilty to a felony charge of possessing an incendiary device and was sentenced to three months in the county jail.

Since then, Starkey also admitted a 2016 hit-and-run where he backed into a 1 1/2-year-old. The child was knocked to the ground.

When confronted by the family before he drove away, Starkey said it was their responsibility to watch the kid.

He got 20 days in jail with 70 days suspended for that misdemeanor.

In the new case, Starkey was stopped by a Safeway employee who noticed him hiding items in his coat pocket on Oct. 3, court documents said.

Starkey had been waiting in a store office for shoplifting until an officer arrived.

Police found in his backpack a CO2 cartridge with a green wick coming out of it, and immediately suspected it was an explosive device, documents said.

Sgt. Darryl Judge took the device and, once back at the police department, used a special tool to remove part of the cartridge so the explosive powder could be taken out.

The guns recovered from Starkey’s home included an AK-47 and a Mark II Ruger, court documents said. Starkey is not supposed to own or possess guns because of his prior felony.

In the search, Judge found another IED made from a pill bottle with ball bearings inside and a fuse coming from a hole in the top, documents said. That bottle, found in Starkey’s bedroom, allegedly had his name on the label.

Police recovered a separate container with gun powder and a fuse inside, and several other IED supplies.

Starkey is being held in the Benton County jail on $100,000 bail.

Kristin M. Kraemer covers the judicial system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years in Washington and California.
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