Walla Walla man accused in chase pleads guilty to gun charge

Ricardo Morales Jr. faces four to 12 months in jail after his guilty plea.

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WALLA WALLA -- A convicted felon accused of leading police on a vehicle chase in March pleaded guilty Monday to having a handgun in the van he was driving.

Ricardo Morales Jr., 19, of 607 E. Sumach St., entered the guilty plea in Superior Court to the charge of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

He also had been charged with attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, but that will be dismissed in exchange for his guilty plea.

Morales faces a standard-range jail term of four to 12 months when he's sentenced later. The prosecution is recommending the low end of that range.

Police said the March 9 chase began after an officer 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 ahead of him, according to a police report filed in court.

The officer reportedly activated his overhead lights and siren, Morales 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, allegedly 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, officials said.

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 also was charged last week with three drug deliveries from his home across the street from Garrison Middle School on March 4.

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

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