Thursday, October 29, 2009

Yakima- High School students help catch shooting suspects

YAKIMA, Wash. -- From the outside Davis High School looks like a fortress. Both the Yakima School District and YPD say it's guarded like one, with plenty of security staff and police officers.
And while Wednesday's shooting was very dangerous, the students played an important role in catching the suspects.

"Many of these kids turned out to be excellent, excellent witnesses in that they identified the shooter, they identified the other person, they identified the vehicle, they gave us the license plate number of the vehicle. They weren't afraid to look at these suspects and tell us yes that's them or no that's not him that type of thing," said Capt. Greg Copeland, Yakima Police Department.

And it's their information that lead officers to the suspect vehicle, a White Nissan Altima, found around South 10th Avenue and Arlington. Officers arrested 18-year-old Rafael Aguilar, a known gang member. Before the shooting he'd picked up his 17-year old brother from Davis High School, either of them could be the shooter.

The Yakima School District says their top priority is student safety. Davis' school resource officer was the first on the scene after the shooting. SRO's and other campus security help keep gang violence out of Yakima schools.

"I don't want to say it never happens, but there's not much traffic on to our campus from those that don't belong there. Quite honestly the fact that there's an SRO, a police car presence, that acts as a deterrent for many folks," said Jack Irion, assistant superintendent, Yakima School District.

"And having the officers in the schools, the officers have helped enforce the point that if you're at school your gang colors and your gang attitude and all that goes along with that stays at home," said Copeland.

Witnesses have said there may have been two other people in the car at the time of the shooting, detectives are interested in talking with them.

Copeland says because they caught the suspects so quickly that lessens the chance for a retaliation shooting. But, there will be increased officers in the areas around Davis High School.

Yakima- one shooting suspect attended Davis

YAKIMA, Wash. -- One of the suspects arrested in a gang-related shooting near Davis High School on Wednesday was a student there, police say.

The 22-year-old Granger man hit by the gunfire, a known gang member, is expected to survive the torso wound he suffered, according to a news release from the Yakima Police Department.

Based on estimated ages of those involved, police had said at the scene that they thought Davis students were not connected to the incident, which happened about 15 minutes after classes let out for the day.

But a police news release issued Wednesday night clarified that one of the occupants — described by investigators as a 17-year-old gang associate — was a student at Davis.

Detectives said he and his 18-year-old brother, described as a known gang member, were arrested shortly after the shooting and jailed on suspicion of first-degree assault.

Witnesses identified the younger suspect as the shooter, police said.

The two were arrested after officers located the Nissan Altima that fled the shooting scene in an alley in the 800 block of South 10th Avenue.

They were detained nearby. A third occupant fled the scene.

Officers blocked off several streets north of Nob Hill Boulevard as they searched the area and a house in the 900 block of South Ninth Avenue.

Detectives say they believe that the shooting stemmed from a confrontation between gang rivals at the Country Cottage Car Wash, on Walnut Street next to the high school.

The victim was dropped off by a vehicle in front of the gas station just east of the car wash. Medics treated him in the parking lot as dozens of students walked by.

Monday, October 26, 2009

WAPATO- Warrant issued for 2008 homicide

YAKIMA, Wash. — An arrest warrant has been issued for a 19-year-old man who is suspected of being the shooter in the gang-related death of a Wapato youngster (a Norteno) last year.

The warrant charging Delfino Benson (Sureno) with first-degree murder was filed in Yakima County Superior Court this afternoon.

Benson lives in the Wapato area.

Sheriff’s detectives on Friday arrested a Union Gap mother, her son and another teenager in connection with the same case.

Investigators say witnesses tell them the 45-year-old mother was driving as the group cruised around the Wapato area Nov. 18. They were looking for gang rivals to attack in retaliation for a fatal gang shooting in Sunnyside, according to the arrest report.

The group stopped in the 4500 block of North Track Road when they spotted victim Ricky Cabrera and a friend, who were walking to a nearby market from Cabrera’s house.

Investigators say Benson opened fire, hitting Cabrera. He was declared dead at Toppenish Community Hospital.

The arrest report suggests that the attackers recognized Cabrera’s friend as a rival gang member.

Cabrera’s relatives acknowledge that his brothers are involved in gangs, but they say they had tried to keep Cabrera from the lifestyle.

Stew Graham, chief of detectives for the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office, said a new witness came forward Friday to provide information that resulted in the arrests.

He said at least some of those arrested had been interviewed in the earlier stages of the investigation.

YAKIMA- Man shot at Halloween party dies

YAKIMA, Wash. — A man who was shot in the head early Sunday morning during a Halloween party near downtown Yakima has died, authorities confirmed.

Jason Baldoz, 34, was pronounced dead at 8:18 a.m. today at Yakima Regional Medical & Cardiac Center, according to Yakima County coroner Jack Hawkins.

His death brings the county’s homicide count to 20.

Police on Sunday arrested a 19-year-old Yakima man and known gang member in connection to the shootings, which occured around 1:30 a.m. Sunday in the 300 block of North Seventh Street. Two other men were shot, and one remains in serious condition at Regional.

Baldoz was not a gang member, said Yakima police Sgt. Scot Levno. He lived in the Yakima Valley.

Detectives are asking for help identifying the shooter from anybody who attended the Halloween party. Levno said the shootings began when two known gang members crashed the party and were asked to leave.

“They loitered outside for a while and other uninvited guests engaged in a confrontation with them,” Levno said.

Anyone with information is asked to call 509-575-6212.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Yakima- Halloween triple shooting

YAKIMA--A Halloween party turns violent, leaving three shot and one in critical condition. Police say the shooting is gang-related.

Witnesses told police some uninvited guests showed up at the party. When they were asked to leave, they started shooting.

Police responded to a chaotic scene on the corner of 7th and Lincoln Avenues around 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

Officers found a 34-year-old man who'd been shot in the head and hip. He's in critical condition.

They also found a 32-year-old man who'd been shot several times. He's listed as being in serious condition. A 21-year-old man was shot once in the leg; he was treated and released.

Police don't believe the people who threw the party are involved with gangs, but witnesses heard more than twenty shots fired.

"The sound of women screaming and stuff, it sounded terrible," Ron Bonlender, one of many who called 911 to report the shooting, said. "It sounded like something really serious happened."

"At this point in time we don't have a belief that the victims were gang affiliated or involved," Lt. Mike Merryman, Yakima Police Department, said. "The resulting violence is gang related because of the suspects' apparent connection to gangs."

Police took a 19-year-old person of interest into custody about 12 hours after the shooting, at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

They're still searching for other suspects. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Yakima Police Department at 509-575-6200

Friday, October 23, 2009

WAPATO Three suspects arrested in 2008 shooting death

WAPATO, Wash. -- Police said Friday they have arrested three people in connection with the shooting death last November of 16-year-old Ricky Cabrera of Wapato.

Stew Graham, chief of detectives for the Yakima County Sheriff's Office, said in a news release that a witness to the shooting came forward Friday and provided information leading to the arrest of a 45-year-old woman and a 19-year-old man, both of Union Gap, and a 13-year old male from Wapato.

Police are looking to question another 19-year-old man from the Wapato area.

Graham said the investigation is continuing.

Cabrera was walking to the Crossroad Market about 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 12, 2008, with a friend. The pair had walked about two houses down when a green, four-door car slowed beside them, according to the friend, Andrés Silva-Corona.

Someone yelled from the car and a gun emerged from the window. Shots were fired, hitting Cabrera in the shoulder and rupturing an artery. He bled to death at Toppenish Community Hospital.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sunnyside: LVLs do BB gun drive-by

Teens arrested over alleged BB gun drive-by
By Paula Horton, Herald staff writer

Two Sunnyside teens are in custody after authorities said they were involved in a drive-by shooting with a BB gun.

The BB gun, however, was an exact replica of a Smith & Wesson M&P .40-caliber pistol, said Charlotte Hinderlider, Sunnyside police spokeswoman.

Officers were called just before 10 p.m. Tuesday to a reported drive-by shooting on the 1000 block of Blaine Avenue, she said. The victim had followed the suspects' maroon Chevy Malibu until officers stopped the car.

The two boys, ages 15 and 17, were arrested, Hinderlider said, and a pistol and a container of BBs were found on the floorboard.

The teens were booked into the Yakima County Juvenile Justice Center on suspicion of reckless endangerment.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

PASCO- Surenos desacrate Norteno's grave

The grave marker for a Pasco man gunned down in April was desecrated over the weekend with gang graffiti, burned flowers and urine.

Late Monday, Eutimio Vivero-Martinez's marker at Cityview Cemetery in Pasco still had a light blue tint from the spray paint. His son, Francisco Vivero of Pasco, earlier attempted to remove all traces of the destruction.

Vivero-Martinez, 38, died April 26 during a gang clash on 14th Avenue.

Convicted killer Christopher Ruesga, 17, was sentenced Oct. 9 to 15 years in prison. Ruesga is a member of the Sureo gang, which associates with the color blue.

Vivero-Martinez's home had reportedly been hit by shotgun blasts just hours before he was killed. He was with two known Norteo members when their group walked into Sureo territory and approached Ruesga and his friends.

Maria Vivero Cruz said Monday that her entire family is upset with the desecration of her brother's grave marker and the outcome of the criminal case.

Cruz said her father, Eutimio Vivero, was at the cemetery Friday night to take flowers to the adjacent markers for his sons Eutimio and Alberto. He returned Sunday to reportedly find the gang signs in blue paint, urine in a flower vase and both flowers and a red bandana burned on the stone.

Cruz said the family is tired of the retribution and called Pasco police about the vandalism.

"I am frustrated and hurting for my mom. She feels like she can't even let my brother rest because they're destroying him. They're messing with him," she said. "He's so innocent right now, and they can't even let him rest."

She questioned why some have nothing else to do but go out and destroy other people's property. It is "getting ugly with gangs" in the Tri-Cities, and people cannot walk the streets or enjoy time in the outdoors without worrying about what could happen, she said.

Cruz said she wants to write the Washington Legislature because she feels the state is too lenient on punishment for killers. The law actually discourages the people and gives no hope to those who have suffered a loss, she said.

"If you want to act like an adult you're going to get treated like an adult. We want the laws strong and heavy on kids so they don't go back and do what they're doing now," said Cruz, who is angered that Ruesga can return to society once he's served his time. "We lost and he gains a life. It's not fair, it's not fair at all."

Yakima murder suspect arrested in Tacoma

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Police are sometimes stymied in crime investigations when witnesses are unwlling to come forward and speak up, but that wasn’t the case in a homicide investigation Tuesday.

Yakima detectives got their first lead from surveillance video taken by a security camera near where Shelly Kinter’s nude body was found about 5 a.m. in an alley off Chestnut Avenue between Sixth and Seventh streets.

Her body had been run over, but Sgt. Scot Levno said investigators believe that happened after she had been killed.

The video showed a black Dodge Avenger, and by midday detectives were inspecting just such a car in the parking lot at Connections, an apartment complex in the 100 block of South Naches Avenue for people recovering from substance abuse. Kinter, 42, lived in a second-floor unit there.

As detectives were preparing to impound the car, some Connections residents gathered in the parking lot hollered out that another black Dodge with a cracked windshield was driving past and had been seen going by earlier.

Police located another black Avenger a few minutes later at the 7-Eleven store on Yakima Avenue and arrested the driver. The car had front-end damage above the passenger-side headlight and the windshield was shattered on the driver’s side.

Levno said that car matched what was seen on the surveillance video. “We found blood on the driver and in the passenger compartment, and on the undercarriage of the car,” he said.

The suspect, 20-year-old Aaron Leroy Briden from Tacoma, was booked into the Yakima County jail on a charge of first-degree murder, according to a police news release.

The news release said Kinter died “from apparent trauma to the head and body.” Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins said an autopsy will be done today.

Information on the Web site lists a Shelly Kinter as a 1985 graduate of Davis High School.

A man who lives at Connections, which is operated by Triumph Treatment Services, said Kinter was “just a really mellow person; she never did anybody no harm at all.”

“She was a ray of sunshine,” said a woman smoking a cigarette in the Connections parking lot.

At one point a woman drove up to the group and asked if the woman who had been killed was Shelly, and then broke into sobs.

“She was trying to get her life straightened out, and she was doing a good job,” said the woman, who declined to give her name but said she became friends with Kinter at the free weekly meals a church group provides for homeless and needy people in the neighborhood. The woman is a volunteer who helps at the Friday meals.

Wanted: solutions to gang problems in the Yakima Valley

YAKIMA, Wash. -- More than 250 people filed into the Capitol Theatre on Tuesday night to hear about a problem that has reached into nearly every city in the state: gangs.

In an effort to mobilize communities to take a stand against a growing gang problem statewide, KYVE-TV Channel 47 brought cameras, producers and host Enrique Cerna to talk to law enforcement officials, lawmakers and the public about possible solutions.

The event , "Confronting Gang Violence: A Town Hall Discussion," will be televised at a later date. It drew the entire 15th Legislative District delegation, Yakima County commissioners and city officials from across the Yakima Valley.

Members of community groups mobilizing against gangs in Yakima, Toppenish and Sunnyside also were present.

As the Capitol Theatre became a studio for the broadcast, city leaders, lawmakers and law enforcement officials appeared to have left their titles at the door as they came together with a seemingly genuine interest to seek solutions.

A comment period was even open to engage the public.

"I'm heartened at the turnout," Cerna said, looking at the crowd. "Obviously, this is a concern of the community."

A spike in gang violence across the Yakima Valley this year has residents on edge and police trying to find resources to step up enforcement.

In Yakima County, at least seven of the 19 homicides this year are known to be gang-related. In Toppenish, drive-by shootings occur at least twice a month, and on March 5 one claimed the lives two young men.

Flanked by Yakima County Prosecutor Jim Hagarty and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, Cerna asked about possible solutions and showed video clips of a former Los Angeles gang member who broke away from a gang, and a Toppenish family who lost their son in March to a gang shooting.

Hagarty admitted that the Yakima Valley per capita probably has the largest gang problem in the state, but it's something that everyone should be concerned about.

"The gangs are spreading and going into every area of the state," he said. "We're not alone."

Agreeing with Hagarty, Satterberg said he's seeing more teens committing violent crimes than ever.

Solutions ranged from devising community programs to steer youth away from gangs and reaching people in their homes to stiffening laws over juvenile crime.

One example of a flawed juvenile justice system is teenagers have to be caught carrying a gun several times before facing any stiff penalties, complained Satterberg.

"Then they shoot and kill someone, and then they're all of a sudden in adult court."

Former Tacoma gang member Marlin Henderson, 29, told the crowd why and how kids are getting guns.

"The problem for the kids is it becomes a source of power," he said of guns. "Kids get the gun at home, parents aren't supervising it very well, they steal it, sell it for $50 and then it's on the streets."

But locking everyone up isn't a single solution, he explained.

A taped interview told his story, how his parents were addicted to crack cocaine and how he was picked on for being a light-skinned black.

One day at age 12, his anger over his parents' drug use led him to beat up another boy. That's when gang life began for him.

He said it was the love of his wife and his grandmother's words telling him to pray that eventually began to pull him from a life of gangs.

He told prosecutors that former gang members who have changed their lives stand the best chance of reaching youth. Both prosecutors agreed that efforts need to be made on a community level, and gang awareness and intervention need to be brought into homes.

Hagarty told Henderson he appreciated hearing his first-hand experience and insight into possible solutions.

Satterberg then leaned to Hagarty and said: "You and I are not the best messengers."

* Phil Ferolito can be reached at 509--577-7749 or

Gang forum televised

* "Confronting Gang Violence: A Town-Hall Discussion" airs on Oct. 29 at 7 and 10 p.m. on KYVE-TV Channel 47 and on KCTS 9 in Seattle.

Gang-related homicides in the Valley

Of Yakima County's 19 homicides so far this year, at least seven are considered gang-related homicides. Here is a list of those that police say are gang-related.

* Jan. 4 -- Jesus Tlaseca Sosa, 22, was shot to death by gang rivals at an AM/PM minimart in Sunnyside. Police later arrested suspect Oscar Torres, 25.

* March 5 -- Estevan Silva Jr., 17, and 20-year-old Israel Diaz were fatally shot in Toppenish by a gang rival. Days later, police arrested suspects Anthony Sanchez, 22, of Buena and his sister, Isabel Sanchez, 20, of Wapato.

* May 18 -- Leonardo A. Perez, 20, of Yakima is fatally shot somewhere around the 1000 block of North Fourth Street in Yakima. No one has been charged with his death.

* June 27 -- Oscar Garcia, 16, died 10 days after he was shot in the head in the 400 block of South Fourth Street in Yakima. Police said he was a known gang member. No arrests to date.

* Sept. 29 -- Yorbane Ortiz, 17, of Yakima is shot dead near the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Willow Street about 9 p.m. A witness says a car pulled alongside Ortiz before shots were fired.

* Oct. 10 -- Nicholas J. Jimenez, 20, of Yakima was shot to death when someone opened fire on him and a 16-year-old former Yakima boy who were standing outside a house that hosted a party in the 700 block of North Fourth Avenue. Police say they were part of a group that gathered after the funeral of Yorbane Ortiz.

YAKIMA: Gang Town Hall Meeting

Where does the growing gang problem in our state stand? How do we make it stop? Those are the questions raised Tuesday night.

The crowd of more than 200 people came to find out more about the growing gang problem we're seeing. The town hall, put on by public television stations KYVE and KCTS, brought in prosecuting attorneys, local law enforcement, and people affected by gangs. "Before it gets too out of control, it'd be nice to step in and try to find some alternatives for kids," Lisa Schmitt gave as her reason for attending.

People like the ones that gathered that night are big part of the solution. Experts on the panel said one of the ways to solve the problem is to take the glamor out of gangs through family and community support of our youth. The town hall show will air throughout the state starting within the next few weeks.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Grandview- BGL arrested for threat w/gun

Miguel Navarrete, AKA lil Cholo of the Bell Gardens Lokotes was arrested in Grandview after someone alerted the police to his whereabouts. He was wanted for alledgedly threatening a rival gang member in August.
After a long foot pursuit, he was arrested at his home. A firearm was found after a search of the home.
Navarette has previously been arrested for drive-by shooting in February of 2008.

Toppenish- Suspects sought in Parker Heights shooting

TOPPENISH, Wash. -- Investigators are continuing to search for those responsible for the assault of two men and the shooting of three others in the early hours of Saturday in the Parker Bridge Road area.

The injured men -- including one taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle -- are all expected to survive, authorities said.

Yakima County Sheriff's Chief of Detectives Stew Graham gave the following account of the incident, which began in Yakima when a 34-year-old Zillah man offered to drive three men home after all four were involved in a crash.

The car was just arriving at the three men's home near the intersection of Yakima Valley Highway and Parker Bridge Road when they saw a man running from the area and they came under fire.

One of the gunshot victims, a 38-year-old man, was treated at the Toppenish Community Hospital and released. The other two were taken to Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center, where a 27-year-old with a gunshot wound to the back remained Monday. A hospital spokesman said he was in satisfactory condition.

The third man, 26 years old, was later transferred to Harborview, where he was listed in satisfactory condition with a leg injury, authorities said.

The driver was not seriously injured, but was hit by window glass shattered by the large-caliber rifle rounds fired at his vehicle.

As deputies were taking their report at the house where the shooting took place, two brothers arrived. They said three unknown men had broken into their home, assaulted them and then left with some cash.

Graham said the victims did not know why they were attacked. But it is believed it was their attackers who opened fire on the car.

No descriptions were available for the suspects. They were seen leaving in a white vehicle, perhaps a van or sport utility.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

3 Shots miss man; Yakima police arrest 3

YAKIMA, Wash. — Three teenagers were arrested Thursday night in connection with a gang-related shooting in which bullets struck a house and two parked cars.

The intended victim was not hit, according to a news release from the Yakima Police Department.

Officers were already in the area when they heard shots fired about 9:50 p.m. in the 1500 block of McKinley Avenue. Sgt. Joe Salinas, the department’s former gang unit sergeant, stopped a speeding vehicle nearby that contained three gang members or associates. A .357-caliber revolver and a 12-guage shotgun were in the trunk, current gang unit Sgt. Erik Hildebrand said in the news release.

The incident started when someone in a passing car shouted a gang challenge to a 19-year-old man near 16th and Lincoln avenues, Hildebrand said. The victim walked to McKinley, where an unknown male confronted him and fired six shots at him, he said. The victim then ran away.

The revolver found in the stopped car had all six shots fired, police said.

The car’s three male occupants — two 18-year-olds and a 16-year-old — were jailed on suspicion of first-degree assault.

The news release did not indicate that the victim had any gang ties.

Toppenish tries anti-gang injunctions

TOPPENISH -- Getting rid of gangbangers by challenging their right to dress or act like gangbangers. It worked in California now Toppenish Police Department is moving ahead with a plan the attorney general is also pushing in Olympia.

Toppenish's gang problem has plagued the city for years.

"Once you get gangs they're not quick to go away you have to learn to enforce and deal with the problem," says Chief Adam Diaz.

There have been more than 260 gang incidents so far this year that's everything from graffiti, felony assaults, even shootings. While gang activity has simmered, there is no question it will boil over again.

"It looks bad on the restaurant because it's a family restaurant and the side it's all tagged," says Jose Gatica, store always getting tagged.

All you have to do is drive through Toppenish to see the effect gang members are having on the city. Jose Gatica says Las Palomas restaurant is tagged at least three times every month and it's been going over for over a year now.

But Toppenish is looking into a new way of dealing with gang members involved in criminal activity, it's called civil injunctions. Think of it a list of do's and don'ts for documented gang members. Gangbangers who loiter, tag, display gang colors, break curfews or even hang with other gang members would find themselves in the back seat of a cruiser.

"Officers based on observation can move forward and take enforcement action so what it does is shields the public from getting involved," says Chief Diaz.

Chief Adam Diaz says the biggest problem with getting gang members behind bars is getting witnesses to cooperate, and fear has been an effective weapon. City leaders in Toppenish are convinced civil injunctions would allow them to turn that weapon back on the gangs.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Two bullets recovered from car fleeing gang altercation

YAKIMA -- A car whose occupants were fleeing from a gang-related altercation was hit by gunfire Wednesday night, Yakima police said.

Officers recovered two bullets from inside the Honda Accord, but no injuries were reported, according to a news release from the Yakima Police Department.

Police responded about 9:35 p.m. to the 900 block of East Spruce Street to check on a report of shots fired. No victims were located at first, but the car returned to the area a short time later, authorities said.

The two occupants reported they had been shot at, but witnesses who heard the altercation and shooting were not able to describe the suspects, police said. The news release provided no details on the type of altercation.

The residents of the house where the shooting took place have gang ties, according to police.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Capitol Theatre to host anti-gang forum

Capitol Theatre to host anti-gang forum

by Phil Ferolito
Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima Valley residents are invited to join lawmakers, law enforcement experts and community leaders to discuss a growing statewide gang problem during a special town hall meeting Tuesday at the Capitol Theatre.

Hosted by KYVE-TV 47, the event will feature a panel of law enforcement officials, including state Attorney General Rob McKenna and King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg.

The gathering, being called "Confronting Gang Violence: A Town-Hall Discussion," begins at 7 p.m. and is intended to bring communities together over the growing gang problem and explore possible solutions, said executive producer and host Enrique Cerna.

Local county and city leaders, lawmakers and school officials have also been invited to the event, he said.

"This is their community and this is their concern and we hope people turn out," he said.

A comment period will be offered to the public.

In addition to lawmakers and law enforcement, former gang members and families touched by gang violence will share their stories, he said.

"Our whole approach is to look at the problem and hopefully look at some solutions," he said. "We've been following the whole issue of gang violence for a couple of years. We've seen a spike in gang-related violence, particularly over the past year."

While the Yakima Valley has seen a recent increase in gang activity, Cerna describes it as a statewide problem.

From rural communities such as Sunnyside and Moses Lake to urban areas like South Park and White Center in Seattle, police are seeing increases in graffiti, drug trafficking and violent crime associated with gangs, Cerna said.

Hopefully, the event, which will be broadcast in Seattle and Spokane, will mobilize communities to seek out solutions, he said.

"It's a challenge," he said. "On the one hand, people want something done. And on the other hand, there's a certain fear that goes with it. You have young people killing each other and for what?"

Monday, October 12, 2009

Yakima police investigating gang killing

Yakima police investigating gang killing

Posted: Oct 10, 2009 07:08 PM

Updated: Oct 12, 2009 10:34 AM

YAKIMA--A 20-year-old Yakima man is dead and a 16-year-old boy injured in an early-morning shooting, and police say witnesses aren't talking.

Police believe the shooting is gang-related; they think the two murders are connected because they happened just a block apart.

They also say they're still running extra emphasis patrols but simply put, they can't be everywhere at once.

Officers responded to calls of shots fired on the 700 block of North 40th Avenue around 1:15 a.m. Saturday.

That was all the help they'd get. A group of about ten people were on scene, but police say they refused to cooperate.

About that time officers caught up with a car headed to a local hospital, carrying 20-year-old Nicholas Jimenez. He'd been shot in the back.

He died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

Police are now investigating two gang-related murders in just two weeks, but they say these homicides aren't due to a lack of officers on the streets.

"These two homicides that have happened are not a matter of the cops not being around, this is a matter of internal problems going on with gangs and they look for a target of opportunity and they take it."

Police don't have any suspects.

A 16-year-old boy from Utah was also shot several times in the leg.

His injuries aren't life-threatening.

Grandview gun battle nets Pasco man six years in prison

YAKIMA — A Pasco man was ordered Friday to serve six years in prison for his part in a gang-related gun battle in Grandview in which he was shot.

Juan Zepeda, who was convicted in 1997 of the stabbing death of a teenager in Grandview, was given a midrange sentence by Yakima County Superior Court Judge James Gavin.

Zepeda was convicted by a jury in September of second-degree assault, intimidating a witness and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Authorities said Zepeda was one of three known suspects who took part in a May 27 exchange of gunfire between gang rivals in a residential neighborhood near the corner of Crescent Avenue and West Fifth Street in Grandview. As many as 25 shots were fired, police said.

Zepeda, who testified at the trial, maintained his innocence throughout the case and said at Friday’s hearing that he hoped the evidence would have swayed the jury in his favor.

Deputy prosecutor Gary Hintze read a letter from the intimidation victim.

The man lived near the scene and was taking pictures of the car Zepeda was riding in as he left the area following the shooting, investigators said.

“He pointed a gun at me and he threatened to kill me because I chose not to be a silent victim that day and since,” the man wrote.

The defense argued that Zepeda was not armed and that the witness confused Zepeda’s cell phone for a gun.

“I didn’t point a gun at him. I’m the one that got shot,” Zepeda told Gavin.

Zepeda was shot in the leg during the gunfire.

Relatives who spoke in his support Friday said he was a good person who was trying to improve his life and help raise his 2-year-old daughter. Zepeda and his relatives said he had distanced himself from the gang life and was only caught up in the shooting by accident. He was dealing with a funeral for a relative of his child’s mother, who has family members involved with gangs, they said.

Zepeda has been inaccurately cast as a “cold-hearted killer” for his role in the stabbing death of Shaun Owsley, said his sister, Sandra Zepeda.

Owsley, 18, was stabbed to death in a January 1997 brawl at a party in Grandview. Zepeda was convicted of second-degree murder. He was 15 years old at the time.

Defense attorney William Schuler of Naches said Zepeda had often shown remorse for that incident during conversations. He said Zepeda describes that encounter as an attempt to defend a friend against a bully.

Hintze had asked for the maximum sentence — which would have added another five months to the sentence.

“The community is sick to death of what’s been happening in recent times,” Hintze said, referring to an increase in gang violence.

As part of the sentence, Zepeda must avoid associating with known criminals and must not get any more gang-related tattoos during three years of probation after his prison time.

Two other defendants were charged in connection with the incident.

Santiago Barrera Brito, 17, awaits trial on charges of first-degree assault and second-degree illegal firearm possession. Police say he fired toward Zepeda, who suffered a leg wound in the shooting.

An arrest warrant is outstanding for Victor Flores Garcia, 21, on charges of first-degree assault and unlawful firearm possession

Sunnyside woman shot in head at least four times

A Sunnyside woman found dead Monday at the end of a rural road outside the city was shot in the head at least four times, according to an autopsy.

Yakima County sheriff's detectives said Monday afternoon that they were still trying to retrace victim Jessica Barajas' last steps to help determine the circumstances of the shooting.

Orchard workers discovered the body of Barajas, 26, about 5:30 a.m. as they arrived at work at the end of Scoon Road, several miles west of Sunnyside, authorities said.

No houses are near the scene. The body was found next to the road, adjacent to an orchard.

Investigators initially reported that Barajas had also been shot in the torso, but the autopsy found only the head wounds, Coroner Jack Hawkins said. Other evidence at the scene may have wrongly suggested the additional wounds, Hawkins said.

The weapon has not been recovered, and detectives are still trying to determine the circumstances of the shooting, said Stew Graham, the sheriff's chief of detectives. She apparently was shot at the scene, Graham said.

Graham said Barajas had family ties in the Lower Valley and apparently lived a somewhat transient lifestyle. Detectives heard she had recently been staying at the Town House Motel in Sunnyside, Graham said.

Along with a gang-related shooting death over the weekend in Yakima, the woman's killing brings Yakima County's homicide total to 18 for the year, matching the final 2008 count.

Anyone with information about the Barajas case is asked to call the sheriff's office at 509-574-2500.

Yakima police look at ties between two gang slayings

Yakima police look at ties between two gang slayings

Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Investigators say they are considering whether Yakima's two most recent gang-related homicides are related.

The victim in Saturday's incident was 20-year-old Nicholas J. Jimenez of Yakima, police said Monday.

He was shot once in the torso and died on arrival at Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center, authorities said.

The shooting happened about 1:20 a.m. in an alley behind a home in the 700 block of North Fourth Avenue.

Yakima police Sgt. Scot Levno said friends of homicide victim Yorbane Ortiz, who was fatally shot Sept. 29 in Yakima, were attending a party at the Fourth Avenue house.

Ortiz's funeral was held recently.

The 17-year-old was killed while walking in the area of North Fifth Avenue and Willow Street. Police say someone in a passing car shot him.

The circumstances of the Jimenez shooting remain under investigation.

Levno said he was apparently shot at relatively close range by someone with a pistol, but detectives have few details beyond that.

"There was nobody there at this party who claimed to see or know anything," Levno said, describing the lack of cooperation as a growing trend in gang-related crime over the past few years.

Also injured in the Saturday shooting was a 16-year-old boy from Utah.

Levno said the boy was a Yakima native who had returned for Ortiz's funeral.

He was treated for gunshot wounds to the legs and released from a Yakima hospital soon after the incident, Levno said.

Including this morning's discovery of a woman shot numerous times outside of Sunnyside, 18 homicides have been reported across Yakima County this year.

That matches the total count for 2008.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Yakima- another teenage shot

By Stacy Lilienthal
YAKIMA -- Another teen is hit in a drive-by shooting in Yakima Tuesday evening.

It happened just after 5:00 at the 2000 block of Willow Street. Police say someone is a vehicle shot several rounds at a house. A 17-year-old known gang member was hit once in the leg.

"I was inside my home at the time and heard the gunshot and jumped up and ran around to the front to see what was going on," Neighbor, Ronald Stevens.

"We responded a little bit after 5 for reports of a drive by shooting and simultaneously we sent officers to regional hospital where a gunshot victim had just shown up at the hospital," Sergeant, Tim Bardwell said.

Police have no suspects. A witness claims to have seen a dark colored Lexus speeding off westbound on Willow Street.