Walla Walla man denies fleeing police, having gun

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WALLA WALLA - A man is scheduled for trial May 18 on charges accusing him of leading police on a vehicle chase earlier this month and having a loaded handgun in the van he was driving.

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

The March 9 chase began after an officer reportedly saw the van make a reckless turn and run a red light at Ninth Avenue and Alder Street about 4:30 p.m. The officer noticed the driver of the vehicle was either trying to catch up to or was chasing a vehicle, 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, Ricky Palomino, reportedly fled on foot and was chased to a residence in the 400 block of South Eighth Avenue. Palomino was located in the basement of the house and arrested, 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 Palomino - who reportedly have close ties to a local gang - are convicted felons and not permitted to possess firearms.

Morales is incarcerated in the County Jail. Bail has been set at $150,000.

Palomino, of 258 Willard St., is charged in the Juvenile Department of Superior Court with residential burglary and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. He is being detained at the county's Juvenile Justice Center.

Palomino is set for trial April 14 after entering innocent pleas Friday.

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