An Oroville man who plead guilty to burglarizing an Oroville market during the dam evacuation in February was sentenced yesterday in Butte County Superior Court to the maximum term in state prison. The man had used a shotgun to blow open the doors of the market on the evening of February 12, 2017 after most of southern Butte County had been told to evacuate their homes and businesses pending a possible failure of the Oroville Dam emergency spillway.
District Attorney Mike Ramsey said Teran Washington, 25, used a shotgun to blast through the front door of the market in the 700 block of Oro Dam Boulevard West, so he and a juvenile companion could enter and steal cigarettes. The store was closed due to the evacuation orders and law enforcement was stretched thin in helping citizens evacuate the area.
Superior Court Judge Clare Keithley sentenced Washington, 25, to the maximum term of 3 years for the burglary plus a maximum 10-year term for use of a firearm to gain entry into the building. Keithley also resentenced Washington on a prior case where he was convicted of being a felon in possession of ammunition, adding an additional 8 months to the 13-year state prison sentence.
Attorney Philip Heithecker represented Washington at the hearing and argued that imposing the maximum 10-year enhancement for use of the shotgun was “overboard” based on the facts of the case; requesting a minimum term of 3 years instead. Deputy District Attorney Preston Schaub responded that by using a shotgun to gain entry into the store, it was in fact Washington’s actions which were overboard – noting Washington had no idea of who might be inside the darkened store.
Keithley ultimately imposed the full 10 years citing the fact Washington could have used any object to break into the market and the gunshot caused a nearby teenage resident to respond with toy gun to detain Washington. The teen’s mother intervened and stopped the teen’s actions.
Ramsey stated it was important to seek maximum punishment in this case as well as other similar looting cases which occurred during the evacuation to send the strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated and there are severe consequences for looting in this community. “There were many, many acts of heroism and compassion during those dark days. This community choses to be defined by those acts and not by the acts of a handful of predators and criminals.”