Two bounty hunters have pled guilty to assault after they tried to apprehend a bail jumper at gunpoint on the grounds of a local high school.
It happened last March outside the main entrance of Quince Orchard High School as students were leaving for the day.
An incident so frightening several schools in the area were briefly placed on lockdown.
Before sentencing Jonathan Vargas-Fuentes to three years in jail, all of it suspended, the judge in the case called the man’s conduct outrageous, telling the bounty hunter in so many words he should have known he was on school grounds.
In a video released by the state’s attorney’s office and used as evidence in the case you can see a pickup truck drive up to the main entrance of the school with a gold Taurus trailing close behind.
The video shows the passenger door of the Taurus open and a man’s leg coming out. What you can’t see is what prosecutors say students saw as they were waiting for the bus.
A gun and a man shouting “get out of the car”.
The man in the pickup already had one encounter with the men, knew he was being pursued and headed for the school thinking it was a safe place. He was wanted for jumping bail and failing to appear in court on a drug charge.
Although there is no audio, the students standing nearby saw it all and heard the man screaming "get out of the car".
As the pickup speeds off the police are called and the men are stopped a short distance away where they claim to be federal agents.
A claim police soon learn is false when they find credentials showing the men to be fugitive recovery agents, or bounty hunters.
Outside the courthouse, Vargas-Fuentes had nothing to say and let his lawyer do the talking.
"From my clients standpoint he was chasing someone who had an active warrant”, said attorney John Pikulski, “he was trying to bring someone back to justice who chose not to appear in court, he was following them, well within his duties, that person entered a school, he is not familiar with the area, he unknowingly entered a school property, they were there for a matter of minutes and when he learned where they were and what was going on they left".
Witnesses told police when the men drove up to the school they were wearing masks.
Two items police found when they searched the car along with a tazer and a pellet gun.
"Bail bondsmen and recovery agents are an important part of the criminal justice system”, said Ramon Korionoff, spokesman for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, “they help keep the cases flowing and the cases coming to court after they have failed to appear but in this particular case they stepped over the line when they brought weapons onto school property and used them as they tried to apprehend an individual".
Before pleading guilty last week to second degree assault and possessing a gun on school property, Clemente Balsera spent fifty nine days in jail. He too was sentenced to three years, all of it suspended.
Both men continue to work as bounty hunters and their licenses have not been suspended.
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