Krouse cops to 9 counts

<I>DAMIAN MULINIX/Chinook Observer</I><BR>During his allocution in Pacific County Superior Court Friday, Ely Krouse became increasingly emotional while pleading guilty to nine counts of assault and robbery stemming from his armed robbery of the Ilwaco Pharmacy in May. Krouse is facing up to 20 years for this crime, and still awaits possible charges in Cowlitz County for a bank robbery. Allocution basically consists of the judge making sure the defendant fully comprehends the consequences of his plea.

SOUTH BEND - Sentencing has been scheduled for Sept. 12 in Pacific County Superior Court for Ely C. Krouse, the "pepper-spray bandit" who has pleaded guilty to attempting to rob the Ilwaco Pharmacy May 23.

Krouse, 29, from Astoria, was booked for eight counts of assault and one of first-degree robbery at Pacific County Jail after the Ilwaco incident and held on $2 million bail.

On Friday, at Krouse's pre-sentencing hearing, Judge Michael Sullivan recommended a 20-year prison sentence. According to Pacific County Chief Deputy Prosecutor David Bustamante, the sentence "could go higher or lower, but not by a lot." Several of the second-degree assault charges included a deadly weapons enhancement. Bustamante said Sullivan recommended a 150-month sentence and added seven and a half years for the weapons enhancement. He also recommended Krouse serve 18 to 36 months of community custody after serving the prison sentence.

Krouse also faces charges in Cowlitz County for robbing a bank in Kelso. He also attempted to rob a bank in Chehalis in Lewis County but charges haven't been filed there yet. Bustamante said ballistics tests on a gun fired in the Chehalis robbery are underway. If there's a match to the gun used in Kelso, "Cowlitz is set to go" on a trial and sentencing for Krouse, Bustamante said.

The weapons-enhancement charges in Pacific County were filed because Krouse pointed a gun, a .380-caliber semi-automatic Browning High-Point pistol, and pepper spray at people in the pharmacy during the incident.

May 23 was an exciting day for Ilwaco residents after the call came in at about 5 p.m. of a robbery in progress. Several "local heroes" participated in the capture and arrest of Krause, including pharmacist Tom Sutherland.

Sutherland said Krouse came into the pharmacy where he "stood around for an inordinate amount of time. I was busy and became aware of him in my peripheral vision and noticed he was wearing a mask. Then he raised the gun and announced his intentions, barking orders. He was very calm and deliberate."

He pepper-sprayed three pharmacy employees and three customers and ordered them to the ground, Sutherland said, "then he departed. ... I think he came in to rob a bank and the pharmacy got in the way." Key Bank has a branch in the pharmacy building.

Sutherland, his face covered with the pepper spray, followed Krouse after he left the pharmacy, and was on his cell phone telling pursuers where Krouse was heading after he attempted to flee in his vehicle. Numerous other locals were after the robber, including two off-duty Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers, who were at the scene.

After making several wrong turns, Krouse was arrested in the parking lot of Pacific Bible Church, a dead-end.

The entire incident was caught on multiple surveillance cameras at the pharmacy, Long Beach Police Department Chief Flint Wright said. He said of the six people in the pharmacy who were pepper-sprayed, four were seen on the videotapes and all had the gun pointed at them. The suspect also pointed the gun at the two WDFW officers.

After Krouse was taken into custody, Wright said "I'd love to have the department take credit for catching him, but half of Ilwaco was chasing him. I wouldn't advise chasing a suspect, but this time, it worked out."

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