Gang assault brings long sentence

A prosecutor said in court Thursday that the beating of a 22-year-old man Nov. 11 at the Regional Athletic Complex was the result of homegrown gang activity, and that it came in retribution for an alleged rape.

One of the gang members, Timothy Thomas, 17, of Olympia, was sentenced as an adult to seven years and nine months of confinement Thursday after pleading guilty to first-degree assault.

A juvenile prosecutor and a juvenile probation officer said outside Thurston County Superior Court that the attack underscores a growing, homegrown gang problem in Thurston County. The victim suffered “two or three cracked vertebrae” and massive head trauma after being struck repeatedly, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Wayne Graham said in court.

Thomas’ attorney, Karl Hack, referred to his client’s act as an attempt at “vigilante justice.”

“In our society, you’re not allowed to engage in vigilante justice anymore,” Hack said. “… You’ve got to rely on the system to punish people for the crimes that they’ve committed.”

Graham said in court that investigators still don’t know whether the alleged rape of the gang members’ female friend took place.

Olympia police detective Sgt. Dan Smith confirmed Thursday that the alleged rape is under investigation, but he declined further comment.

Five additional defendants each face a first-degree assault charge for their alleged roles in the beating. Two of the defendants are young girls – 13 and 14 years old – who are being tried in juvenile court because of their ages. Graham would not release the girls’ names because they are charged as juveniles.

The other three defendants are being tried in adult court. They are identified in court records as Deshae Tharpe, 18; Roosevelt Ford, 17, and Steven Klingberg, 16.

At the time of their arrests, Tharpe and Klingberg were River Ridge High School students and Ford was a Timberline High School student. Klingberg was attending school “via an online program,” court papers state. It was unclear after 5 p.m. Thursday whether the students still are enrolled in the North Thurston School District.

Thomas was identified in a police report as being enrolled at South Sound High School, an alternative school in the North Thurston School District, at the time of his arrest.

Graham called Thursday a sad day for the community before Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor sentenced Thomas for the attack. Tabor told Thomas he is lucky that the victim did not die during the attack.

Thomas will spend his confinement in a state correctional facility for juveniles until he turns 18, when his confinement will be under the authority of the state Department of Corrections.

Thomas apologized in court.

“I would like to say that what I did was wrong, and I regret it,” he said.

Thomas’ father also spoke, saying his family will continue to support the teen.

Thomas was one of the primary participants in the assault, Graham said.

Court records identify Thomas’ gang as the Blackouts. Juvenile probation officer Reggie Gaither said the gang has been broken up as a result of the prosecution of the six people thought to have been involved in the attack.

“Unfortunately, that’s just one of many,” Gaither said of Thurston County’s growing juvenile gang problem.

Graham said that in the past, Thurston County gang activity was limited to gang members from Pierce County traveling south, but “the difference now is we’ve got our own, homegrown gang people.”

Graham added, “It’s getting worse.”

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465