Man sentenced to 4 years for chase

A Seattle man was sentenced to four years in prison Tuesday for his part in a July police chase across much of Snohomish County that terrified shoppers, stopped rush-hour traffic and ended in gunfire.

Eric Merlan Johnson II, 24, pleaded guilty earlier this month to second-degree robbery and attempting to elude a police vehicle.

Numerous other charges are pending against a second man, Stewart Allan Compher, 31, of Everett, who also is accused in the late afternoon rampage. Compher faces decades in prison if he’s convicted of all the charges. He also was shot and wounded by police during the chase.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Cowsert sentenced Johnson to the maximum penalty. The sentence was agreed to by Joan Cavagnaro, chief deputy prosecutor, and defense attorney Thomas Cox of Mill Creek.

Johnson was charged with fewer crimes than Compher. He also has no prior criminal convictions.

The chase started in the Lake Stevens area, proceeded across the U.S. 2 trestle, stopped briefly at the Everett Mall and ended at the Fred Meyer store on 132nd Street SE near Mill Creek.

Along the route, two vehicles were stolen at gunpoint, suspects were chased through stores and shots were fired by police.

Johnson was captured at the Everett Mall after two men allegedly stole a car on the trestle and fled with police close behind. Prosecutors allege that Compher stole a pickup truck at the mall, and an officer fired a shot in the vehicle’s direction as it sped off.

Compher then allegedly continued to flee, leading police on another high-speed run to the Fred Meyer store.

After he ran out a back entrance, police fired at Compher and wounded him.

Besides a large number of police cars from various agencies, a Snohomish County sheriff’s helicopter was used by police to keep pace with the fleeing suspects, who caused numerous traffic accidents.

A multiagency police task force brought in to investigate the police shooting determined the officers had responded appropriately.

The officers “appear to have carried out their duties capably, professionally and lawfully” while trying to protect the public, said Mark Roe, a deputy prosecutor who reviewed the investigation.

Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or jhaley@heraldnet.com.

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