Man gets 6-year sentence for Walgreens robbery

A convicted robber was sentenced to prison Wednesday for ordering a Walgreens pharmacist to hand over bottles of prescription medications or he would blow up a bomb in his backpack.

Joseph Gary Jensen, 40, received the six-year, one-month sentence in Benton County Superior Court.

He originally was charged with first-degree robbery for the 2008 crime, but pleaded guilty on the first day of trial, Oct. 25, to second-degree robbery. Prosecutors said in court documents that they agreed to reduce the charge in a plea deal because the state would not be able to prove that a deadly weapon was displayed.

Jensen, in his plea statement, said he unlawfully took property from the Kennewick store pharmacist. "The taking was against his will by the threat of immediate force. I used the threat to obtain drugs and money," he wrote.

The victim was not physically injured in the June 28, 2008, robbery.

Jensen was released from the custody of the state Department of Corrections in April 2008.

Two months later, he walked into the Walgreens on Highway 395 at Clearwater Avenue at 3:30 a.m. and handed the pharmacist a note that said, "Give me all of your Oxycontin, morphine and methadone. I have a bomb. We will all die if you don't give me the items."

The pharmacist retrieved 20 bottles of the anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs from a locked cabinet, activating an emergency alarm in the process. Jensen meanwhile counted down in 10-second increments from 60, then dumped the bottles into his backpack, documents said.

The victim reportedly saw several brown-colored medicine-type glass bottles and a white dish inside the backpack.

Jensen then demanded money and was given about $200, documents said. He then left the store.

A Kennewick police officer recognized Jensen after reviewing security video taken in the store. Police tried to contact Jensen but learned he had left for Portland. He was wanted on warrants from the Department of Corrections for escape and for a DUI case.

Defense lawyer Gary Metro wrote in a memo to the court that his client "has been plagued since childhood with trauma" and suffers from mental illness. He also said that just 11/2 weeks before the robbery, Jensen was attacked by strangers in Portland, which resulted in a concussion and a fractured skull. Jensen had surgery for the injury, which led to his need for pain medication.

A Spokane psychologist who evaluated Jensen at the request of his attorney determined he has ongoing psychological problems and that "there is far more evidence that he is sick than that he is merely sinister."

Jensen's criminal history includes six controlled substance violations, two vehicular assaults, another second-degree robbery and a theft and possession of stolen property. His crimes were committed in either Benton County or Whatcom County.