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Wednesday, June 7, 2023
June 7, 2023

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Driver fleeing at 90 mph before crash with a deputy that killed a woman


KENNEWICK — A Kennewick man shot at a police officer and then sped away at 90 mph before hitting a Benton County sheriff’s car, according to court documents.

Antonio De Jesus Martinez, 35, was wheeled into a Benton County courtroom Monday for the first time in connection with a Sunday morning crash that killed his 39-year-old passenger.

Details of his injuries were not released but he was treated at a Tri-Cities hospital after the collision before being booked into the Benton County jail in Kennewick later the same day.

Martinez is being held on suspicion of vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and drive-by shooting.

Deputy Prosecutor Tyler Grandgeorge asked Court Commissioner Andrew Howell to set bail at $1 million.

Martinez is accused of shooting at a Kennewick officer parked in a police car shortly before 4:20 a.m. Then fleeing a Benton County deputy at speeds up to 90 mph through Kennewick residential neighborhoods.

The chase ended when Martinez took a turn and slammed into another Benton County sheriff’s car, injuring the deputy and killing Martinez’s passenger Jessica Sanders.

“Those facts alone warrant substantial bail as they implicate a clear danger to the community,” Grandgeorge argued. “It also indicates a clear unwillingness to appear in court and the likelihood to not appear in the future.”

In addition, Martinez has failed to show up 19 times in District Court cases and 27 times in Superior Court cases, Grandgeorge said.

“To be blunt, Mr. Martinez is a clear and present danger to law enforcement and the community at large. One million dollars is necessary to ensure that he has enough skin in the game to not re-offend if he’s released,” Grandgeorge said.

Defense attorney Katherine Bohnet held off arguing about bail, which can be raised at a later time.

Commissioner Andrew Howell agreed to the $1 million.

The case came just days after a man shot and wounded Pasco police officer and fled. That pursuit ended when a Benton County sheriff’s deputy shot the suspect. The suspect still has not been identified publicly or released from a Tri-Cities hospital.

Shooting and chase

Around 4:20 a.m. as a Kennewick police officer was parked at the Highlands shopping center, at 151 N. Ely St., completing paperwork, when a dark Nissan Sentra drove by and fired a shot at the officer’s car, according to court documents.

A spent shell casing was later found in the area. The suspect car was then seen near south Union Street by a sheriff’s deputy. The deputy tried to pull him over but Martinez fled.

Martinez then drove north on North Irving then east on 10th Avenue and blew through a stop sign, said the documents.

The deputy reported that the suspect was traveling east on 10th at 90 mph and ran a red light when he crossed Highway 395.

Martinez then turned onto West 8th Place which connects to South Vancouver Street, and then turned left and struck a deputy’s car that was headed south on Vancouver.

Troubled history

This was not the first time Martinez has been accused of fleeing from police at high speeds.

Martinez was released in November 2021 after spending a year in prison for a 2019 police chase. In that case, he handed an officer a suspended license before driving off at speeds that reached 90 mph in a 30-mph zone.

He drove into oncoming lanes, went the wrong way on an highway off-ramp and ran stop signs in a pursuit that started at the Walmart in Pasco, according to previous Herald stories.

Officers forced Martinez’s car to spin out, but he rammed a police car and drove away.

At the time, police backed off because his driving was unsafe and erratic, but a tipster led officers to his abandoned car in Kennewick and he was arrested.

That case came about a year after he was accused of violating a protection order.

Attorneys believed his bad behavior was fueled by drug use, and gave him an opportunity to get treatment rather than serve a prison term. He was sentenced under a drug offender sentencing alternative for two cases.

According to the Washington Department of Corrections, he failed to go to treatment and was accused of running from police again in July 2020.

That led prosecutors in both counties to revoke the sentencing alternative, and he was sentenced to a year in prison in January 2021.