EAST WENATCHEE — An East Wenatchee police officer cited for theft on July 26 has been placed on administrative leave.
Assistant Chief Ray Coble declined to confirm if Officer Josh Virnig was placed on leave as a result of the alleged theft but Virnig was placed on leave the same day as the theft citation, Coble said.
A theft investigation began when Chelan County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to Mill Bay Casino in Manson. Casino security asked deputies to remove a friend of Virnig’s from the property, according to a probable cause affidavit filed July 26 in Chelan County District Court.
While deputies were removing the man from the casino, security told deputies that Virnig was involved in a theft earlier in the evening.
Surveillance footage showed Virnig reach into a woman’s purse and take a wallet and then open it, the affidavit said. The woman caught Virnig, took her wallet back and then pushed him away. Virnig put his hands in the air and then left the casino.
The woman later told deputies she didn’t know Virnig and wished to press charges.
Virnig was contacted by deputies at Don Morse Park in Chelan. He didn’t deny taking the wallet but said he was playing around and his intention was not to steal the wallet, the affidavit said.
Virnig was cited for third-degree theft, a gross misdemeanor.
He was not taken to jail because on that night the Chelan County Regional Justice Center was only allowing mandatory arrests to be booked into custody, the affidavit said. Third-degree theft is not a mandatory arrest.
The Chelan County Prosecutor’s Office has asked the case to be dismissed without prejudice because it’s not clear if any money was taken or if there were any “access devices,” like credit cards, inside the wallet.
Dismissing a case without prejudice allows prosecutors to refile charges after they've gathered more evidence.
Virnig is due in court Aug. 14.
Coble said the department will conduct an internal investigation of its own separate from the sheriff’s office investigation.
Virnig was named the department’s 2018 officer of the year at an annual law enforcement ceremony in May.
“He’s a real good guy and a great asset,” Coble said of Virnig. “So it’s unfortunate.”
This story was updated to clarify the Chelan County Prosecutor's Office's motion to dismiss.