Rental truck thief sentenced to 41 months

PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles man who pleaded guilty to seven felonies after he drove a stolen rental truck the wrong way on a one-way street and wrestled with a Clallam County Sheriff’s deputy in stinging nettles has been sentenced to over three years in jail.

Andrew P. Benson, 29, pleaded guilty to seven felonies on Oct. 25 as part of a plea agreement prior to a Nov. 6 jury trial. Benson will serve 41 months and one day at the Washington State Corrections Center in Shelton, including credit for time served, to be determined by the Washington State Department of Corrections.

Per the plea agreement, Judge Lauren Erickson of the Clallam County Superior Court imposed the following sentence: 364 days on count one (third-degree attempted assault — law enforcement officer), count two (DUI — drugs), count four (reckless endangerment) and count seven (reckless endangerment of roadway workers). The court also imposed 41 months and one day on count three (attempt to elude), 29 months on count six (attempt to elude) and 90 days on count five (resisting arrest).

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Roberson explained in a Friday morning email that sentences in Superior Court almost always will run concurrently, not consecutively.

Benson had been arrested Sept. 3 for investigation of eluding a police vehicle, DUI-drugs, resisting arrest, obstructing a law enforcement officer, reckless endangerment and third-degree driving while license suspended, according to the sheriff’s office.

He later was charged with 10 felonies, including reckless endangerment of a highway worker, second-degree assault, theft of a motor vehicle, third-degree driving while license suspended, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest, eluding a police vehicle and DUI-drugs.

The incident began Sept. 3 when sheriff’s deputies tried serving a state Department of Corrections warrant on Benson at about 10 p.m. at a residence in Gales Addition, according to the sheriff’s office. Sheriff’s deputies also had probable cause to arrest him for motor vehicle theft and eluding a police officer.

Deputies checked the area but were unable to locate him. A deputy returned to the area at about 11:25 p.m. and spotted a rented truck, which Benson had been reportedly driving, the sheriff’s office said. It was occupied by a female passenger and a male driver, whom the deputy recognized as Benson.

The deputy told Benson several times to exit the truck as the passenger got out and walked away, the sheriff’s office said. Then Benson drove erratically past the deputy, crossing the centerline of the roadway, causing deputies to suspect Benson might be under the influence, the sheriff’s office said.

Deputies received supervisor permission to pursue Benson for the suspected DUI.

Benson’s reportedly forced other vehicles off the road, drove the wrong way on a one-way street and nearly collided with other vehicles, the sheriff’s office said.

Benson drove the truck into a yard at the north end of North Baker Street, stopped, jumped out and fled, attempting to jump over the edge of an embankment, the sheriff’s office said. A deputy grabbed Benson from behind and both went over the embankment, falling about 10 feet into blackberry bushes and stinging nettles.

Benson was arrested after a short struggle and then told deputies he had swallowed a baggie containing about 1½ grams of fentanyl, the sheriff’s office said. Medical personnel were called and Benson was taken to Olympic Medical Center.

After he was treated, Benson was booked into the Clallam County jail.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at brian.gawley@ peninsuladailynews.com.

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