Two Centralia men are facing harassment charges for allegedly threatening to shoot a couple in a motel parking lot on Thursday.
Malakhi Verley, 18, and Keaton Taylor, 26, are accused of driving to a motel in the 1300 block of Belmont Avenue and “trying to fight” one of the residents in the parking lot on Feb. 3, according to court documents. The resident reportedly went back to his room and told the man and woman he was staying with what happened, and the man went out to the parking lot, shortly followed by the woman, according to court documents.
The man reported that Verley started arguing with him and during the argument, Verley allegedly “began lifting the front of his shirt to display a gun from the front of his waistband,” according to court documents. Verley then allegedly “pulled the gun from his front waistband and pointed it directly at both (the man) and (the woman).”
The man reported “he was not initially worried” but pushed the woman “around the corner of the building to get her into a position of safety,” according to court documents. The woman reported “she believed she was going to be shot and got into a position of safety.”
Taylor is accused of driving himself and Verley away from the scene in a vehicle registered to Verley.
Because officers “knew that Verley was often associated with Keaton Taylor,” they went to Taylor’s last known address to search for Verley’s vehicle after they failed to find it at Verley’s address, according to court documents. The vehicle pulled up shortly after officers arrived, occupied by Verley and Taylor.
The alleged victims identified Verley as the man who pointed the gun at them and Taylor as the driver during the incident, according to court documents.
Both Verley and Taylor were arrested and have each been charged with felony harassment, threat to kill.
Upon receiving a search warrant for the vehicle, police found a gun in the glove box matching the description of the one pointed at the victims. While the officer initially believed the gun was a real Glock 19, closer examination revealed it was “a very realistic black Glock 19 BB gun” with markings and features that “caused the officer to believe it was a real gun,” according to court documents.
“Although the firearm turned out to be a BB gun, even the officers believed it was a real firearm,” said Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer at Verley’s preliminary hearing in Lewis County Superior Court on Feb. 4. “Frankly, we’re fortunate someone wasn’t shot, including Mr. Verley.”
While Verley had no prior criminal history, Meyer asked Judge James Lawler to set Verley’s bail at $100,000 out of concern he would commit a violent offense or interfere with the administration of justice if he was released.
For Taylor, who was out on bail from an unrelated drive-by shooting case when this incident allegedly occurred, Meyer requested Lawler set bail at $500,000.
“It may seem unusually high given the charge,” said Meyer, arguing that Taylor’s criminal history made him a community safety risk, along with the fact that this alleged offense occurred while he was out on bail. “I haven’t read Mr. Taylor’s conditions of release, but I assume the alleged actions are in violation of those,” said Meyer.
Defense Attorney Rachael Tiller requested “a reasonable bail amount” of $25,000 for Taylor, citing Taylor’s “excellent appearance history” and “a lot of discrepancies” within the affidavit of probable cause regarding Taylor’s involvement in the alleged incident.
“I think that proper procedure for identification was not followed,” said Tiller.
For Verley, Tiller asked Lawler not to set bail higher than $10,000 given Verley’s lack of prior criminal history and his financial inability to post a high bail.
Lawler opted to set Taylor’s bail at $250,000 and Verley’s bail at $50,000 given the violent nature of the alleged offense and the involvement of the BB gun.
“I’m sure it appeared to be a firearm for the alleged victims in this case,” he said.
Both Verley and Taylor have arraignment hearings scheduled for Feb. 10.