WALLA WALLA -- A man with a previous felony conviction was sentenced Monday afternoon to four months in the County Jail for having a handgun in a van pursued by police in March.
Ricardo Morales Jr., 19, of 607 E. Sumach St., was ordered to serve the low end of the four- to 12-month standard-range term he faced for second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. In handing down the sentence, Superior Court Judge John Lohrmann went along with a prosecution recommendation.
Lohrmann gave Morales credit for the 49 days he's already served.
Morales also had been charged with attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, but that was dismissed in exchange for his guilty plea May 3 to the gun possession charge.
Before Lohrmann imposed the sentence, Morales said, "I possessed (the gun) and I'm sorry for possessing it." He explained he was under the influence of alcohol at the time.
Early this year, Morales pleaded guilty to a felony riot charge in connection with a massive gang-related fight outside St. Patrick Catholic Church last June. For that, he had been sentenced to 30 days, with 22 of the days converted to the Department of Corrections work crew.
Lohrmann cited the prior offense in handing down his sentence Monday for the gun possession. "I'm very hopeful the justice system is getting through to you," Lohrmann said.
The March 9 chase began after a police officer saw the van make a reckless turn and run a red light at Ninth Avenue and Alder Street about 4:30 p.m., officials said. The officer noticed the vehicle's driver, later identified as Morales, 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 reportedly 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 -- convicted felons who reportedly have close ties to a local gang -- are not permitted to possess firearms.
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 is charged with three drug deliveries from his home across the street from Garrison Middle School on March 4.
He has pleaded innocent to all of the charges and his trial is scheduled for July 22.