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Delivery driver claims self-defense

A Maple Valley man accused of felony assault following an early October altercation, in which a Friday Harbor grocery store worker suffered a broken arm, is denying the charge and claiming self-defense.

On Dec. 2, Zachery Patrick Thomas, 57, pleaded not guilty in San Juan County Superior Court to one count of second-degree assault, a Class B felony.

Thomas, who maintains the grocery worker was the aggressor and that he was forced to defend himself, is slated to stand trial Feb. 21.

A driver for United Grocers, Thomas has shuttled goods to Friday Harbor for nearly two decades. He was released under court orders and without bail pending trial, and is represented by Seattle defense attorney Richard Hansen.

According to court documents, an argument over placement of an empty pallet escalated into a shoving match as the two men were unloading a delivery of freight at King's Market in mid-afternoon of Oct. 7. The two men gave conflicting accounts as to who instigated the altercation.

The alleged victim claims Thomas shoved him and then used the riser on the rear of his delivery truck to lift him off the ground. He told a deputy that he lost his balance, toppled backwards and used an outstretched arm to break his fall as he plummeted about eight feet onto the pavement of the grocery store parking lot, according to court documents.

About 30 minutes after the altercation, the man reportedly discovered his arm was broken.

Thomas, interviewed by a deputy on a cell-phone one week after the altercation, claims he was berated and repeatedly mocked by the employee after arriving with the delivery later than scheduled. He was anxious to unload and to get in line to catch a ferry back to the mainland because of disruptions in ferry service that day.

Thomas claims the employee got so close while unleashing a barrage of insults that he could feel spit from the man's mouth hitting his face. He then shoved the man, who fell to the ground. Thomas reportedly sought out the employee after unloading the delivery and they shook hands before he left.

The two men were reportedly acquainted with one another for nearly 20 years.

A Class B felony, second-degree assault carries maximum penalties of 10 years in prison, a $20,000 fine, or both; however, the standard range of sentencing set by the state is three to nine months in jail.

— Scott Rasmussen

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