Chase, gun convictions net man nearly six years in prison

Elliott W. Barnes will undergo a long term in community custody, too.

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WALLA WALLA -- A man who pleaded guilty to leading law enforcement officers on two vehicle pursuits in past months and having a stolen handgun was handed a nearly six-year prison term Tuesday afternoon.

Elliott W. Barnes, 26, of 1702 Old Milton Highway, was sentenced to 69 3/4 months, after which he will undergo the same amount of time on community custody, a form of probation. One condition will be that he successfully completes drug treatment.

In handing down the sentence, Superior Court Judge John Lohrmann went along with a joint prosecution and defense recommendation of a drug-offender sentencing alternative for Barnes. A standard-range sentence, considering Barnes' extensive criminal history, would have landed him in prison for about 10-13 years.

Before the sentence was imposed, Barnes' attorney, Jim Barrett, said the alternative was a "perfect fit" for his client, whose substance abuse and chemical dependency contributed to the crimes.

"This is (Barnes') last, best opportunity to change," Barrett said.

Lohrmann agreed.

"It seems to me you're lucky enough to be alive at this point," Lohrmann told Barnes. "If you don't get your addictions under control, you may not be so lucky again."

As required by law, Lohrmann gave Barnes credit for the 62 days he'd already served in the County Jail.

Barnes pleaded guilty May 13 to two counts of attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle and one count each of possession of a stolen firearm and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

Barnes admitted leading officers on two vehicle chases -- one that occurred this Feb. 8 and the other, on July 30 of last year. A third charge of felony eluding, stemming from a pursuit Feb. 5, was dismissed, along with a charge of third-degree driving while license suspended.

Authorities said officers arrived at Barnes' residence shortly before 3 p.m. Feb. 8 to serve a warrant, but he drove off heading west on the highway.

He then headed south on Peppers Bridge Road while being pursued into Oregon by numerous patrol vehicles, and finally stopped on Locust Road between Winesap Road and the Old Milton Highway, officials said.

Barnes and other occupants fled from the vehicle, but Barnes was taken into custody a short time later after being located in a wood shed of a private residence.

After he was jailed, prosecutors charged him with leading officers on the other pursuits, which originated in the west end of Walla Walla.

He wasn't apprehended during either of those chases. But the vehicle he was driving Feb. 5 was located and a stolen handgun was found on the floor below the driver's seat, officials said.

Among Barnes' prior convictions is one in 2009 for felony eluding. He pleaded guilty to leading officers on a high-speed, 18-mile chase in a stolen vehicle from Walla Walla into Oregon in February of that year. He subsequently was sentenced to just over a year in prison.

At Tuesday's hearing, Barnes apologized to the community. And his father, Billy Barnes -- who himself has a criminal record -- welcomed treatment for his son.

"He's really not a bad kid," Billy Barnes said.

"He got started off wrong because of me."

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

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