Walla Walla man faces felony charges after pursuit

Ricardo Morales Jr. was charged Wednesday with attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle and unlawful possession of a firearm.

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WALLA WALLA - A man faces two felony charges for allegedly leading police on a vehicle chase Tuesday and having a loaded handgun in the van he was driving.

Ricardo Morales Jr., 19, of 607 E. Sumach St., was charged Wednesday in Walla Walla County Superior Court with attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

Morales and a youth arrested in the area a short time later have close ties to a local gang, police said.

Tuesday's chase began after an officer reportedly noticed the van make a reckless turn and run a red light at Ninth Avenue and Alder Street about 4:30 p.m. The reason for the erratic driving isn't known. But the officer "noticed that the driver of the vehicle was either trying to catch up to or chasing a vehicle ahead of him," according to a police report filed in court.

The officer activated his overhead lights and siren, Morales allegedly sped up and eventually turned onto Willow Street, crashing into a parked vehicle.

He was arrested near the scene. But his 17-year-old passenger reportedly fled on foot and was chased to a residence in the 400 block of South Eighth Avenue. The youth was located in the basement and arrested on investigation of residential burglary because the owner of the house said the youth didn't have permission to be there, police said.

The loaded .32-caliber semiautomatic pistol was found in plain view on the floor of the van, according to authorities. Both Morales and the juvenile are convicted felons and not permitted to possess firearms.

Morales was booked into the County Jail. Bail initially was set at $50,000, but later raised to $150,000. The youth was detained at the Juvenile Justice Center.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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