Rontarus Washington Jr. allegedly used pellet gun to rob store, strike clerk before attempting to bite an officer, according to affidavits
photo by: Mugshot courtesy of the Shawnee County Sheriff's Office
A former Lawrence man who is currently suing the state for wrongful imprisonment in connection with a long-running murder case is alleged to have used a pellet gun to rob a Topeka convenience store and to strike a store clerk in the head, before attempting to bite an officer during his arrest, according to recently released affidavits.
The man, Rontarus Washington Jr., 27, of Topeka, has been charged in Shawnee County District Court with one felony count each of aggravated robbery, aggravated battery, felony interference with law enforcement, plus one misdemeanor count of attempted battery on a law enforcement agent, according to charging documents.
The charges are in connection with an incident on Aug. 24 at Max’s Oakmart, a Topeka convenience store at 2518 NE Seward Ave., as the Journal-World has reported.
According to two affidavits in support of Washington’s arrest, two officers were driving near Max’s around 10 p.m. when they observed an individual running from the store and jumping over a fence followed by a female store clerk.
The officers believed a crime had occurred and questioned the woman, who told them that the store had just been robbed. An officer watched the surveillance footage of the incident and saw a man follow the clerk into the store with a gun drawn at her back, according to the affidavit. The suspect’s clothes were clearly identifiable in the video: black ripped jeans with gray underwear showing with a black elastic band, black shoes with green markings, a red or orange hoodie and “possibly” a purple K-State T-shirt, according to the affidavit.
The woman told police that she feared being shot by the man and that he struck her in the back of the head. Police confirmed that there was a knot on the woman’s head where she reported having been hit by the gun. She said the suspect forced her to open the cash register and put money — later determined to be $702 — in his backpack.
While officers were questioning the woman, a police dog was dispatched to help track down the fleeing suspect. In an alley near the convenience store, the officer located a discarded K-State shirt that looked like it had recently been worn and was wet from what the officer believed to be sweat. The officer continued down the alley, where he saw a man, later identified as Washington, entering a camper, according to the affidavit.
Washington was not wearing a shirt and his jeans were down around his ankles, and when the officer took Washington into custody, his jeans came the rest of the way off and he was wearing gray boxer shorts with a black elastic band, according to the affidavit.
An officer later located black shoes with green markings and a pair of socks on the roof of the house next to the camper that Washington was entering. An officer also located a black pellet gun that looked like a real gun inside the camper near where Washington had been, according to the affidavit. The owner of the property gave officers permission to search his camper.
Washington initially refused to identify himself to police, according to the affidavit. Police called an ambulance for him to be treated at the Shawnee County Jail for apparent injuries, but Washington was uncooperative, they said. An officer attempted to use a fingerprint scanner to identify him, to which Washington reportedly told the man to get away from him and that he was about to “go off.” When the officers attempted to restrain Washington, he tried to bite the forearm of one of the officers, according to the affidavit.
Washington finally told police who he was after an officer said that he would be booked as a “John Doe” and that he would not be eligible for bond, to which Washington said he would reveal his identity.
“What is your name?” the officer yelled, according to the affidavit. Washington then identified himself.
Washington is being held on a $155,000 bond and is next scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 30 for a preliminary hearing, at which a judge will decide whether to order him to stand trial for the alleged crimes.
Washington spent more than five years in the Douglas County Jail charged with the murder of Justina Altamirano Mosso, 19, whose body was found Nov. 9, 2014. Washington was tried for the killing after he told investigators he was in her residence to steal money but that he didn’t kill her. His trial ended in a hung jury. A second prosecution was pending, but the case was dismissed without prejudice on Dec. 22, 2021, by current District Attorney Suzanne Valdez. Altamirano Mosso’s murder remains unsolved.
The case was the subject of community protests in the summer of 2020. Ultimately, a judge lowered Washington’s bond from $750,000 to $500,000, and he was able to bond out of jail with financial help from community members who believed he was being unjustly accused and that race was a factor in his arrest.
Washington has a federal lawsuit for wrongful incarceration pending in that case, as the Journal-World has reported.