Tacoma resident Darnell Walker thought he’d finally shaken his drug addiction and life of crime, living clean from 2007 to 2015.
Then his wife of 20 years died. It didn’t take long for his demons to claw their way back, the 55-year-old man said Thursday in Pierce County Superior Court.
Walker wanted drugs, and he admitted he robbed the same Safeway on South 56th Street in Tacoma three times in a three-month span last year to get money to buy them.
“People, when faced with overwhelming change, go back to what they’re used to,” Walker said told Judge Grant Blinn. “What I was used to was running from problems to drugs.”
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Blinn then sentenced Walker to eight years, four months in prison on three counts of first-degree robbery. That’s the sentence deputy prosecutor Kawyne Lund had requested.
Defense attorney Jason Johnson asked for a sentence of seven years and one month, saying his client’s grief skewed his thinking.
“Obviously, this wasn’t a smart crime, robbing the same Safeway over and over again,” Johnson said.
Witnesses told police that in each case Walker entered the grocery store, showed an employee a handgun and demanded cash.
Walker on Thursday said he was sorry he traumatized those employees.
“I realize I scared those people, and I’m sorry about that,” he said.
Blinn sympathized with Walker, up to a point.
But the judge said he couldn’t look past the defendant’s decades-long history of crime, including past armed robberies, and handed him the 100-month sentence.
“It’s sad and tragic, because you have potential,” Blinn said. “But it’s just been robbery after robbery after robbery.”