Kennewick police chief puts end to beer caper

KENNEWICK -- A 20-year-old man faces his first felony charge after shoving off-duty Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg when he confronted him for allegedly trying to steal two cases of beer from a grocery store.

Travis James Stevenson of Kennewick was reportedly intoxicated when he ignored the chief's orders, and later tried to spit on an officer who was arresting him, according to prosecutors.

Now Stevenson is charged with two counts of third-degree assault and one count each of minor in possession/consumption of alcohol and resisting arrest in Benton County Superior Court. He has pleaded innocent and a trial is set for April 12.

Deputy Prosecutor Kristin McRoberts said in court Thursday that between early August and this incident on Feb. 17, Stevenson accumulated more than a dozen misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor charges. Seven of those were for possession/consumption of liquor by a minor, in addition to three prior assaults, she said.

The state is concerned about Stevenson committing more crimes while this case is pending because he has an "obvious alcohol problem," McRoberts told Judge Vic VanderSchoor in asking for $10,000 bail.

Stevenson asked to get out of jail, saying he realizes he needs treatment and wants to check into a rehabilitation facility.

"Jail really unmotivates me," he told VanderSchoor.

He also requested a furlough to attend his grandfather's funeral, but didn't have any details. VanderSchoor said he couldn't approve the request without knowing exactly where or when the funeral will be.

Stevenson's bail was dropped to $5,000.

According to court documents, Stevenson was at Yoke's Fresh Markets on 27th Avenue when the manager saw him trying to leave the store without paying for two cases of Coors.

Manager Jeremy Lewis stepped between Stevenson and the exit doors, at which point Stevenson turned around, walked down an aisle and returned the beer to the cooler, documents said.

Hohenberg was standing in a checkout line when he saw the incident.

After talking to Lewis, he confronted Stevenson and identified himself as a Kennewick police officer, court documents said. Hohenberg noticed Stevenson didn't appear to be 21 and could immediately smell alcohol on his breath, documents said.

That's when Stevenson allegedly pushed the chief out of the way and ran outside to a waiting car. Hohenberg said it was a black Isuzu.

Stevenson left behind a friend in the store, who told officers they'd been with a third friend who likely drove the Isuzu. Kennewick Officer Ryan Kelly drove the abandoned friend to a West First Place apartment, where a black Isuzu was parked out front.

Kelly knocked on the front door and was told Stevenson was inside, court documents said. He yelled for Stevenson to come outside because he was under arrest, but Stevenson instead crawled out a back window, documents said.

He was met by Officers Brad Kohn and Drew Sneyd, who ordered Stevenson to get down on the ground.

"(Stevenson) did not comply and attempted to run away," court documents said. "Officers pushed (Stevenson) to the ground; he continued to resist being handcuffed and yelled obscenities at the officers."

It was while Stevenson was being handcuffed that prosecutors allege he tried to spit in Kohn's face. Kohn apparently leaned out of the way to avoid being hit.

Kelly, who drove Stevenson to the jail, reported that the suspect had "a strong odor of alcohol" with bloodshot and watery eyes.