Three gang members and another man are accused of attacking a Pasco hot dog vendor, destroying his stand and tables and stealing money from the tip jar because he confronted them about stolen food.
Jose Sandoval Jr., 28, of Pasco, pleaded innocent Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court to second-degree robbery and second-degree malicious mischief, along with one gross misdemeanor count of rioting.
Sandoval was ordered held in jail on $50,000 bail. His trial is set for Dec. 7.
Co-defendants Mark Serna, Jimmy Cuellar and Daniel Gallegos have similar charges but haven't yet appeared in court to enter a plea.
Prosecutors allege that Sandoval committed the crime to benefit a street gang and advance his position within the group. Deputy Prosecutor Teddy Chow also told the court he has concerns about witness intimidation because of the brazen nature of the Oct. 1 crime.
Sandoval, Serna and Cuellar are members of a gang, said Pasco police Detective Brad Gregory in court documents.
Pasco officers were at the Red Lion Hotel that night conducting a walkthrough of the bar when they learned of a fight near the hotel's entrance. The officers saw the fighting, but people began to scatter upon seeing police.
Victim Derek Perot quickly pointed to four men running to a vehicle as the suspects, court documents said. The female driver turned off the ignition after being ordered to by officers at gunpoint, documents said.
Perot runs a small hot dog stand in the hotel's parking lot, and told police the four men had approached him and asked for a free hot dog. He reportedly gave them one, but refused to hand over any more without payment and then turned around to work on something else at his stand.
That's when Perot caught Cuellar allegedly taking adog and eating it. He confronted Cuellar, but Serna stepped in and tried to strike Perot, who avoided being hit and ran around his stand to get away, court documents said.
The suspects destroyed the stand by flipping the tables and barbecues over and spilling all of the food, documents said. Perot told police that money was missing from his tip jar, and estimated the total damage to his equipment around $1,000.
At one point in the altercation, a suspect allegedly mentioned the gang's name, which was believed to frighten the victim. Other people tried to stop the destruction but were attacked as well, prosecutors said.
Sandoval could face life in prison if found to be a "persistent offender" based on his criminal history and convicted of these charges. His record includes convictions for drugs, attempting to elude police, bail jumping, malicious mischief, assault, residential burglary, animal cruelty, driving with a suspended license and violation of a court order, court documents show.
w Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org