Sunday, February 28, 2010

Violent Night in the Yakima Valley

YAKIMA--The fatal shooting in the parking lot of Wray's Thriftway was just one of four violent crimes in the Yakima Valley Saturday night.

A 28-year-old Wapato man is on life support after being shot in the head, and two teenage girls were also shooting victims. One of them is six months pregnant.

The gunfire all across the valley has police departments stretched thin and residents worried.

One night. Four crime scenes and so far, no arrests.

Gunfire was heard from Toppenish to Wapato to Yakima.

Police had their hands full nearly all night.

"Our resources get spread pretty thin, Sgt. Tim Bardwell, Yakima Police Department, said. "We rely on other units, the detective unit, our proactive unit, our gang unit to supplement and fill in."

At about 9:00 p.m. Saturday, Wapato police were called to the 4500 block of North Track Road regarding a drive by shooting.

A release from the Yakima County Sheriff's Office said 28-year-old Manuel Angel Garcia of Wapato was inside a house on the block when a bullet came through the front of the building and hit him in the head.

Garcia was taken to a local hospital, where he is in stable but critical condition as of 6:20 p.m. Sunday. Due to the severity of his injuries, the Wapato Police Department turned the case over to the Sheriff's Office.

Deputies say Garcia did not live at the targeted house.

After a night like this, valley police departments must rely on each other.

"We're going to look at those [different shootings] and say, 'Are those similar in description to what occurred in our jurisdiction?'" Bardwell said.

So far, police haven't found any clear connections.

Neighbors told KNDO they're fed up with the violence.

"Nothing really gets done on the street," Kris Clemmons of Yakima said. "[Police] put a lot more cruisers around and they patrol more, but.."

Clemmons lives a block away from the other shooting Yakima police dealt with overnight.

Two Yakima teenagers were injured early Sunday morning while at a home on the 900 block of South 4th Avenue. The girls, ages 18 and 15, told police they were inside a house when they heard gunshots and were struck. The 18-year-old was hit once in the leg, and the 15-year-old was shot once in the buttocks. Officers say the 15-year-old girl is six months pregnant.

Police did not indicate any suspects, but do believe the shooting is gang-related.

Others KNDO spoke with believe stopping this violence starts with the community offering help.

"Wherever you go there's going to be some shootings. As a citizen, you got to help the community, that's what you got to do."

The final shooting--but first chronologically--happened in Toppenish. An adult male was shot in the torso in a drive by shooting one on East Toppenish Avenue.

The victim told police he was sitting in his car at about 8:30 p.m. Saturday when another car pulled up and a man inside fired several rounds at him.

Toppenish police say the suspect is a Hispanic male wearing dark clothes and believe he is anywhere from 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 9 inches tall. The victim's injuries are not expected to be life-threatening.

Two Yakima teenagers were injured early Sunday morning while at a home on the 900 block of South 4th Avenue. The girls, ages 18 and 15, told police they were inside a house when they heard gunshots and were struck. The 18-year-old was hit once in the leg, and the 15-year-old was shot once in the buttocks. Police say the 15-year-old girl was pregnant. Police did not indicate any suspects, but do believe the shooting is gang-related.

As of 6:20 p.m. Sunday, no arrests had been reported in any of these cases. It is not clear if any of the shootings are connected.

If you have any information, please call Yakima Police at 509-575-6200, Toppenish Police at 509-865-4355, or the Yakima County Sheriff's Office at 509-574-2500.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Shooting(s) in Grandview

Grandview police investigating shooting

GRANDVIEW - Grandview police are investigating whether or not a drive-by shooting in the area of Stassen Park and West Fifth Street yesterday morning (Sunday) resulted in injury.

Police raced to the scene at 3 a.m. after witnesses reported hearing shots fired and ultimately found the correct location, which was a home in the 400 block of Avenue E.

While investigating the scene, police fielded a call that a gunshot victim was seeking treatment and claimed to be shot in Grandview.

Grandview Assistant Police Chief Mark Ware said the vehicle used to transport the victim to the hospital matched the description of a vehicle leaving the scene of the shooting.

Police have impounded the car and will obtain a search warrant today to see if the two incidents are related.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Witness descriptions lead to quick arrests in Sunday shooting

YAKIMA, Wash. — Within a half hour of a shooting this evening, authorities arrested the man they think pulled the trigger thanks to good descriptions from several witnesses in a Northeast Yakima neighborhood.

The victim, a 22-year-old male, was shot in the abdomen and leg, said Yakima police Lt. Nolan Wentz. The man was dropped off at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital shortly after a shooting was reported about 5:15 p.m. near North Sixth and H streets.

Officers quickly locked down a house on North Sixth Street after the shooting and arrested two people inside, Wentz said. Off-duty detectives were being called in to conduct interviews.

In months past, residents in this gang-ridden neighborhood have expressed hesitation to call authorities when they hear gunshots out of fear of retaliation. That seems to be changing.

“It’s people starting to get sick of it,” Wentz said. “We’ve got several good witness calls.”

More information on the victim’s condition or the suspect was not immediately available.

— Melissa S├ínchez

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sunnyside- shooting on Cascade Way

A shooting was reported near the 1700 Block of Cascade Way on Wednesday, February 18th. No casualties or arrests are known.

Yakima man charged in stabbing death

YAKIMA, Wash. - Authorities today formally charged the 42-year-old man accused in Monday’s fatal stabbing.

Richard Solis, of Yakima, was charged with second-degree murder in Yakima County Superior Court.

He is accused of stabbing 21-year-old Ali Lemus Vargas [an alleged Norteno gang member] multiple times in the head, chest and hands early Monday, authorities said. Lemus Vargas was found about 2:30 a.m. Monday near Pleasant Avenue and West Pierce Street.

Yakima police officers followed a trail of blood that led to a residence in the 1500 block of Seventh Avenue, where they found Solis.

Authorities said an interview with the suspect revealed that an argument between the two led to the stabbing.

Solis is being held on a $500,000 bail in Yakima County Jail. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 2.

- Melissa Sanchez

Yakima- stupid gangbanger shoots himself

YAKIMA -- Police say they have debunked a man's claim that he was shot by someone in a passing car.

The 29-year-old Yakima man reported early Friday that he suffered a gunshot wound to the upper inside right thigh, according to a news release from the Yakima Police Department.

The man said he was walking about 2:40 a.m. toward the 7-Eleven store at 16th and Summitview avenues when someone in a passing vehicle shot him.

Based on evidence at the scene, police said, investigators questioned the man's account of the incident.

The man's pants did not have a bullet hole, but his boxers did, according to the news release. That led police to determine that the man was wounded when the gun discharged while in his waistband.

No charges are being sought against the man, who claimed to be affiliated with a gang, authorities said.

In April 2008, a 20-year-old man claimed that he had been shot in the groin during a drive-by shooting. Police determined that he shot himself with two loads of buckshot after placing the barrel down his pants.

That man was seriously wounded.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sunnyside- 22 year old shot

Jose Acevedo, 22, of Sunnyside suffered non-life threatening injuries as a result of a bullet hitting his leg in a shooting incident that occurred at approximately 6:40 a.m. this morning (Wednesday) in the 1000 block of South 10th Street, according to Sunnyside police.

Police responded to the call and are still investigating the incident, but were told a van with tinted windows was involved.

Officials said preliminary information provided to them indicates the victim was walking down the street when several shots aimed in his direction were fired from the van.

Acevedo was treated and released from Sunnyside Community Hospital this morning.

Witness statements, as well as a victim's statement, were still being taken as of press time.

Sunnyside Police Department officials said further details will be forthcoming, but anyone with information that might lead to a suspect, suspect vehicle or other information regarding the incident is asked to call 836-6200.

In other news, an apartment manager told the Daily Sun News last Saturday morning's shooting incident resulted in bullets striking two apartment units at the Meadow Apartments in the 1400 block of South Sixth Street just after 1:30 a.m.

The apartment manager said one bullet traveled through a window and two walls before stopping in a second apartment.

Two bullets, he shared, struck the complex, and one of the apartments struck was occupied by a mother and her young child.

The apartment manager plans to speak with police regarding the incident, and he said the problem is ongoing, involving suspects with whom the police have had prior contact.

The Sunnyside Police Department is still investigating the Saturday incident and officials said concerns regarding the incident will be addressed at the conclusion of the investigation.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Grandview house shot at

Just after 3 p.m. yesterday (Monday) a woman living in the 1600 block of Apricot Road near Grandview called the Yakima County Sheriff's Office stating she found a bullet hole in her bedroom. The hole led her to discover the bullet had traversed through the room. Further inspection led to the discovery of another bullet hole outside her home.

The woman told deputies she did not know when the bullets had been fired at her home.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sunnyside- Meadows apartments shot up

This past weekend at the Meadows apartments at the 1400 block of S 6th St in Sunnyside, two shootings were reported early the 13th, one at about 1:30am, and another a couple hours later. The Daily Sun News had initially reported it as shots being fired into the air, but the manager of the apartments told the Daily Sun that two apartments had been hit, one of which had a mother and small child inside.

Also on the 13th, a shooting was reported at S 11th and Tacoma Ave in Sunnyside.

Yakima- blood trail leads to arrest in stabbing death

Yakima police on Monday morning arrested a man they believe is responsible for the stabbing death of a 21-year-old man hours earlier.

Responding to a 2:30 a.m. call about an injured man near Pleasant Avenue and West Pierce Street, police said they found Ali Lemus Vargas in the street with multiple stab wounds to his head, chest and hands.

He was taken to a local hospital, but died a short time later, police said.

While at the scene, officers for several hours followed a trial of blood that led to a residence in the 1500 block of Seventh Avenue, where they found a 42-year-old man with hand injuries believed caused by a knife and a stab wound to his abdomen, police said.

Monday afternoon, two nearby residents said they didn't hear anything going on that morning.

Spray paint in the street marked where Vargas' body was found, and pointed out the trial of blood that ran along Pierce Street to Seventh Avenue.

Police said an interview with the suspect revealed that an argument between the two led to the stabbing.

Police said the suspect was booked into the Yakima County jail Monday on charges of second-degree murder.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sunnsyide shooting

On February 12th, a shooting was reported in Sunnyside at Yakima Valley Highway and N 1st St. No casualties were reported.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Toppenish drive by shooting

TOPPENISH -- A drive-by shooting Wednesday night left several bullet holes in an occupied home in the 700 block of East First Avenue, police say.

The victims said seven people were inside the residence when someone in a passing car opened fire about 8:30 p.m., according to a news release from the Toppenish Police Department.

No injuries were reported.

Neighbors described the suspect vehicle as a blue, four-door 1990s Toyota or Nissan. It was last seen going north on South I Street, police said.

Tips about the case may be reported to the police department at 509-865-4355.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sunnyside- shooting near Snipes Pump

On February 10th, gunshots were reported on the 1800 block of Snipes Pump road, south of Sunnyside. Of course, the Sheriffs didn't find nothin.

Grandview officer details gang activity for concerned citizens

Lynda Jo Staples

GRANDVIEW - Grandview Police Officer Rob Colley identified what community members need to know about gangs to an attentive audience of about 50 residents last night, Tuesday.

Colley tackled the issue of when to begin anti-gang work with children.

For police in schools, the age is fifth grade. "But it should start as soon as they hit first or second grade," he said of parental involvement.

One way police identify gangs is through social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. "If they're going to put it up there, we're going to use it," he said.

Colley said gang members are beginning to understand the police department makes note of self-proclaimed gang members for tracking purposes and that courts have determined the hand signs as gang activity. For that reason, he said, they will black out their hand signals in social network photos.

Colley took a moment to explain graffiti to the crowd, and noted some of what people see about town is not done by typical gang members, but by newer gangs that are sprouting up, some of which are comprised of kids who have no criminal history.

Colley said if a person can be identified on graffiti through a moniker, "We can go after them and prosecute them."

Graffiti left unchanged or unmarked re-affirms gang control in a particular area, he said.

Colley was asked how well Lower Yakima Valley law enforcement agencies communicate with each other regarding any type of gang activity. "Sunnyside, Prosser and Grandview are all linked together," he explained, noting contact is frequently and rapidly made when anything new springs up.

Colley said some gang members have expressed disgust toward police because they feel harassed. "They say, 'You're stalking us, you're going after us'," he said.

"We make it unbearable for them to stay here and we're going to continue to go after them, prosecuting them to the best of our ability, and getting them out of our town," he said.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Toppenish shooting

On February 9th, at the 100 Block of Berger Lane in Toppenish an assault with a firearm was reported. No information is available as to victims or suspects.

New comprehensive youth gang project

YAKIMA, Wash. -- There have been many attempts to curb Yakima County's gang problem, but it continues to grow. Organizers of the Yakima County Comprehensive Youth Gang Project say this time it'll be different.

"I'm optimistic because we've actually brought everyone together and we're all going in the same direction. When communities try to go ten different directions to solve a social program it doesn't work. This will work, I guarantee it," said Harold Delia, court administrator, Yakima County Courts.

This new plan attacks the gang problem from all angles, prevention, intervention and suppression. It's targeted at high risk children ages twelve to twenty one. Kids that are involved in gangs or likely to join.

Herold recalls a conversation he had with a former gang leader. "And he said to me, I'll never forget this 'If you don't want 'em, we'll take 'em' and I think that's what this is all about, the community has to step up and say we want you because the gangs will provide that service if we don't," said Delia.

Aimed at engaging youth the project includes: After school programs, school re-entry assistance, mental health and substance abuse treatment, the development of positive recreational activities, and specialized mentoring.

The group includes a who's-who of Yakima Valley leadership and Yakima County Commissioner Kevin Bouchey said it's going to take everyone to tackle the gang problem.

"If we have a community that's not actively engaged in this that just becomes a breeding ground or fostering ground for gang activities," said Bouchey.

Now this ambitious project is only being funded by $200,000 from the state, but Delia said they'll be getting $500,000 in August from the federal government and that's renewable for three years. They've also applied for a Gates grant.

Sunnyside- two suspects sought in shooting - pics

The Sunnyside Police Department is seeking information leading to the arrest of Richard Bermudez, 27, and Crystal Navarro, 24, both of Sunnyside.

The pair is wanted for assault with a firearm after police were called to the 800 block of Ismo Loop last night (Sunday) that occurred just before 10 p.m.

According to police reports Bermudez and Navarro walked up to Nick Medelez, who was standing at the location of the incident. One of the suspects had a gun and fired a shot, missing the victim's head. A second gunshot was fired into the air.

Medelez was not treated for minor injuries he sustained at the scene.

Bermudez is believed to have been driving a 1999 Volkswagon Passat, license plate number 307-YJI. Navarro, say police, was a passenger in the vehicle.

Bermudez is considered by police to be armed with a large semi-automatic handgun used in the incident.

Anyone with information leading to the whereabouts of the suspects is asked to call the Sunnyside Police Department at 836-6200.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Outlook- horses shot

Bob Story

Yesterday (Sunday) at approximately 9 a.m. the Yakima County Sheriff's Office was alerted to a shooting incident in which four horses were shot.

The incident occurred in the area of Hudson and Price roads near Outlook. One horse was discovered to be dead and another was seriously injured. He was not suspected to survive the shooting.

Two other horses were both shot one time apiece, according to the sheriff's report. Those animals are expected to survive their wounds.

Deputies believed the shooting occurred sometime Saturday night, leaving two more horses uninjured.

Yakima County Sheriff's Sergeant Robert Udell said, "The malicious and senseless shooting of the animals greatly affected the horse owners. Not only did the act result in a monetary loss to the owners, but there is a personal loss that cannot be quantified."

He said all the horses were valued as riding horses and have been used with youth groups.

The crime is being investigated as vandalism and cruelty to animals.

Any information leading to suspects in the investigation can be directed to the Yakima County Sherriff's Office by calling 509-574-2500.

Yakima- man shot in shoulder

YAKIMA, Wash. -- A 24-year-old man was shot in the left shoulder early Monday in the 300 block of South Sixth Street, police say.

Officers went to the area about 12:30 a.m. to check on a report of gunfire. They found a number of bullet casings on the ground but no victim, according to a news release from the Yakima Police Department.

But a gunshot victim arrived soon after at Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center. Police said he told them he'd been shot at the Sixth Street scene but was otherwise uncooperative. It was not clear whether the incident was gang-related.

The injury was not life-threatening, authorities said.

Tips about the case may be reported to detectives at 509-575-6200.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sunnyside- shots fired on Grandview Ave

On February 5, Sunnyside police reported calls of 'shots fired' on the 300 block of Grandview Ave. No arrests are believed to have been made.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gangs on Twitter and Facebook

LOS ANGELES (AP) - When a gang member was released from jail soon after his arrest for selling methamphetamine, friends and associates assumed he had cut a deal with authorities and become a police informant.

They sent a warning on Twitter that went like this: We have a snitch in our midst.

Unbeknownst to them, that tweet and the traffic it generated were being closely followed by investigators, who had been tracking the San Francisco Bay Area gang for months. Officials sat back and watched as others joined the conversation and left behind incriminating information.

Law enforcement officials say gangs are making greater use of Twitter and Facebook, where they sometimes post information that helps agents identify gang associates and learn more about their organizations.

"You find out about people you never would have known about before," said Dean Johnston with the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, which helps police investigate gangs. "You build this little tree of people."

In the case involving the suspected informant, tweets alerted investigators to three other gang members who were ultimately arrested on drug charges.

Tech-savvy gangsters have long been at home in chatrooms and on Web sites like MySpace, but they appear to be gravitating toward Twitter and Facebook, where they can make threats, boast about crimes, share intelligence on rivals and network with people across the country.

"We are seeing a lot more of it," Johnston said. "They will even go out and brag about doing shootings."

In another California case involving a different gang, much of the information gathered by investigators came from members' Facebook accounts. Authorities expect to make arrests in the coming months.

"Once you get into a Facebook group, it's relatively easy," Johnston said. "You have a rolling commentary."

And gang members sometimes turn the tables, asking contacts across their extended networks for help identifying undercover police officers.

It's hard to know exactly how many gang members are turning to Twitter and Facebook. Many police agencies are reluctant to discuss the phenomenon for fear of revealing their investigative techniques.

Capt. Walt Myer, director of the Riverside County regional gang task force, said gang activity often "mirrors general society. When any kind of new technology comes along, they are going to use it."

Representatives from Twitter and Facebook say they regularly cooperate with police and supply information on account holders when presented with a search warrant. Neither company would discuss specifics.

Gang use of Twitter and Facebook still lags behind use of the much-older MySpace, which remains gang members' online venue of choice.

The Crips, Bloods, Florencia 13, MS-13 and other gangs have long used MySpace to display potentially incriminating photos and videos of people holding guns and making hand gestures. They also post messages about rivals.

Last week, officials in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, announced the arrest of 50 people in a crackdown of a Latino gang they say was engaged in drug sales and hate crimes against black residents. Prosecutors say some of the evidence was pulled from MySpace and YouTube, including rap videos taunting police with violent messages.

While some members are wising up to the police attention such postings can bring, gang information remains publicly viewable online.

Dozens of Facebook accounts are dedicated to the deadly MS-13 gang, with followers from around the globe. At one site, a video displays pictures of dead members of the rival 18th Street gang, and some users have left disrespectful comments.

The toughest part about tracking someone on Twitter is finding the alias or screen name they are posting under. And many tweets are nonsensical or pointless, so cutting through the clutter can be difficult.

"It's tricky," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy David Anguiano. "If you find out what they go by, you are good to go."

Anguiano tracks the online activity of graffiti vandals - the so-called tagging crews that sometimes morph into gangs. They post tweets saying they are heading out to spray paint and sometimes post links to photographs of their work.

Often, they cannot resist bragging about their handiwork, and the electronic trail they leave is frequently used as evidence.

"They talk about it too much," Anguiano said. "You want the fame so you've got to go out there and talk about it. That's when your mouth gets you in trouble."

Sunnyside- man stabbed, uncooperative

Last night (Monday) at approximately 8:20 p.m. a man was brought into the Sunnyside Community Hospital emergency room with a stab wound to his back. The hospital alerted the Yakima County Sheriff's Office of the incident.

The victim's girlfriend told deputies the pair had been at a residence on Fordyce Road. The man was in a bedroom there with an unknown subject when his girlfriend heard screaming. She told deputies she rushed to her boyfriend's aid to discover he had been stabbed. When she questioned him, he would not tell her who stabbed him and why. She rushed him to the emergency room shortly after, according to Yakima County Sheriff's Chief of Detectives Stew Graham.

He said the deputy investigating the incident was also unable to get the victim to disclose the name of the suspect. The deputy's report says the victim kept saying, "I'm too weak to talk."

Also since yesterday deputies have been alerted to two motor vehicle accidents.

Just after 8 a.m. yesterday multiple vehicles were involved in a crash at Glade and Alderdale roads near Mabton. Two tow trucks were called to the scene and injuries were reported.

Another accident was reported shortly before 8:30 a.m. in the area of Yakima Valley Highway and Sunnyside Road near Sunnyside. The vehicle at the scene was abandoned. Further details were not available.

Yakima County Sheriff's deputies have since yesterday received from Lower Valley residents a report of a safe found in a field, a suspicious activity call, a report of a runaway and a DUI call. Two stolen vehicles were recovered, as well.