Charles F. Sprague III, now a 16-time felon, tried to shoplift a shirt from Macy's at the Everett Mall. He ended up in a violent scuffle with store security guards and off-duty police officers. He was armed with a .40-caliber gun at the time.
A judge on Tuesday told Sprague that he was lucky no one was killed. Sprague fired his gun during the chaos.
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Appel sentenced Sprague to 17 years in prison. More than half that time is attributed to Sprague being armed while fighting with store and mall personnel. The sentence also reflects the defendant's lengthy criminal history. He had 11 prior felony convictions, mainly for property and drug crimes.
Sprague turns 27 next week.
"I just want to apologize for my actions. Drugs overtook my life," Sprague said Tuesday. "I'm sorry to anyone I scared that day."
The defendant was out on bail, awaiting sentencing for a property crime, and only a few months home from his last prison stay when he and his girlfriend headed to the mall.
Store security saw Sprague slip a Nike T-shirt into a shopping bag and attempt to leave without paying. Sprague fought with a loss prevention officer and a mall security officer when confronted. His pregnant girlfriend also fought with the men. Sprague pulled his gun. The mall security officer tried to get control of the weapon. Sprague bit the man's hand.
The weapon discharged and a bullet struck a door. The gunfire sent shoppers racing for the exits.
Two plainclothes police officers happened upon the struggle. One of the men identified himself as a police officer, pulled his gun and ordered Sprague to drop his.
"One officer very nearly shot the defendant because defendant Sprague would not let go of his gun," Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Ed Stemler wrote in court papers.
When a mall security officer got control of Sprague's gun he noticed the weapon had jammed.
"You might have been shot dead that night. For that matter, you might have killed someone," the judge said.
The defendant agreed. He told the judge that he plans to take advantage of his time in prison. He wants to get a better education in hopes of finding legitimate work when he is released. His girlfriend, who is serving five years in prison for the mall melee, gave birth to their son Monday.
The boy could be a teenager before his father is freed from prison.
Tuesday's sentence is in addition to the more than two-year sentence Sprague received in September for trying to use a stolen credit card. He was out on bail for that offense and on community supervision for a previous felony conviction at the time of the mall incident.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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