Crime

Kennewick man gets 4 months for attempting to elude police, hit-and-run damage

A Kennewick man stabbed during a Christmas Eve homicide was sentenced to four months in county jail for an unrelated crash after he failed to stop for pursuing police.

Erick J. Nieto, 24, pleaded guilty to attempting to elude police, a felony, and hit-and-run with damage, a misdemeanor.

Benton County Sheriff's Office Gang Team detectives tried to stop Nieto's Chevy Trailblazer on July 24 for traffic infractions as he pulled out of a convenience store's parking lot, according to court documents.

When the detectives activated their emergency lights and siren, the Chevy slowed but initially did not stop. Nieto then stopped the SUV but, once the detectives were out of their car and approaching the Chevy, he sped off, documents said.

That started a police pursuit, with Nieto driving through multiple stop signs, on the wrong side of the roadway and at speeds up to 70 mph in a 25 mph zone, court documents said.

The detectives eventually stopped following Nieto because they were concerned for public safety, but a short time later they noticed the SUV at 36th Street near Kingwood Street. The detectives approached the area at a normal speed and encountered dust in the air, documents said.

Multiple witnesses directed them to a nearby pasture, where the now-damaged Chevy was abandoned yet still running. Nieto had driven through electric fencing and hit two large pasture sprinklers before coming to a stop and running away, court documents said.

Detectives were able to confirm that the Chevy belongs to Nieto, though he hadn't changed the registration paperwork since buying it from his girlfriend's father several months prior.

He was arrested July 30 by Pasco police after trying to run away from them.

Nieto has convictions for first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, attempted residential burglary and drunk driving.

He was with three family members Dec. 24 when they assaulted Angel Gonzalez with at least one baseball bat because he had been "eyeballing" one of them, court documents said in that case.

Gonzalez, who was 17 at the time, had been walking home in Kennewick, and police determined he did not provoke the fight.

Gerardo Villamar Jr., 23, died after being stabbed in the back. Two of his cousins, Nieto and Jose A. Vazquez-Villanueva, suffered nonlife-threatening injuries.

Prosecutor Andy Miller decided earlier this summer not to file criminal charges against Gonzalez for the homicide because Villamar's family and friends would not fully cooperate with the investigation and failed to give complete statements of what happened that night.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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