Man receives 19 years for armed robbery, leading deputies on a dangerous pursuit through Olympia

A Lakewood man was sentenced to 19 years in prison after pleading guilty to robbery, burglary and assault charges – all stemming from a single incident that happened in Olympia last April.

According to the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (TCPA), on Sept. 21, Gata Leilua was sentenced after pleading guilty to eight felony offenses that were committed on April 22. It all started when deputies responded to an armed robbery at Buddies Deli and Grocery in the early afternoon.

When deputies arrived at the convenience store, the suspect, later identified as Leilua, had already fled the scene in a green Subaru. Within the hour, deputies found his car at a nearby gas station. The moment deputies approached the car, Leilua sped off – leading officers in a wild pursuit.

During the chase, authorities say Leilua drove erratically, dodging in and out of oncoming traffic to pass other cars. Eventually, Leilua entered a neighborhood, turned into a homeowner’s driveway, rammed through their basketball hoop, fence, and crashed the car in the backyard. 

Leilua then stumbled out of the wrecked car, and hopped over the fence into Olympic View Elementary School’s parking lot – ignoring commands from deputies.

While running away from police, Leilua tried stealing two cars that were still occupied. One of the cars he tried to steal sped off, and he fired three shots at them. Luckily, nobody was injured. 

Leilua then ran across the street to another house, and held the homeowner at gunpoint, demanding they hand over their car keys. They obliged, and Leilua once again led deputies on another high-speed chase using a different car.

Deputies say they eventually lost sight of Leilua once he entered Pierce County. After a few hours had passed, officers with the Tacoma Police Department spotted Leilua and arrested him.

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According to the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Leilua was charged, plead guilty and was sentenced for first-degree attempted robbery, second-degree robbery, unlawful discharge of a firearm, first-degree armed burglary, second-degree assault with a deadly weapon, theft of a motor vehicle and eluding a pursuing police vehicle with a special allegation of endangerment.