Friday, April 2, 2010

Yakima innocent shooting victim not expected to survive

YAKIMA, Wash. -- They'd heard gunshots in their neighborhood before. But never as loud as what they heard late Tuesday night.

The friends remember talking inside their small rental in the 700 block of North Naches Avenue before it happened.

Kyle Flerchinger, a 20-year-old from Idaho, stepped outside for a smoke. His girlfriend followed. Then came the gunfire.

"You never think something like this is going to happen so close, to somebody you know, especially in your backyard," said Joyce Speaks, who rents the small house with a neat, fenced-in backyard.

A bullet that strayed from a shooting a block away hit the back of Flerchinger's neck. Authorities don't expect him to survive.

Flerchinger remained on life support Wednesday evening at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital. His mother flew in from Idaho to be with him. His friends are saying their good-byes at the hospital, Speaks said.

If he dies, he'll become the ninth homicide victim in Yakima County this year, the sixth within Yakima city limits. Two of the victims were considered unintended targets.

No arrests have been made in Tuesday's shooting.

Another man, identified by police as 21-year-old Arturo Galvez, was shot near the intersection of Sixth and G streets, where the confrontation occurred.

Yakima police Lt. Mike Merryman said Galvez, who may have gang ties, suffered at least two gunshot wounds in his back. Galvez was flown Tuesday night to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and is expected to survive.

Flerchinger's friends say he and his girlfriend, Amanda Pennington, had been crashing for the past two months with Speaks and her family.

Speaks rents the home with her fiancé and four young children.

Flerchinger met his girlfriend three years ago through JobCorps. They had been living, until recently, in Orofino, Idaho, with his mother. The couple was in Yakima visiting Pennington's family and planned to return to Idaho in May.

"He was a really good kid, became a really good friend," Speaks said. "He was good with my kids."

Detectives are still investigating the shooting. Initial reports from Galvez's brother indicate that his sibling was confronted by someone whom he described as a gang member.

Flerchinger isn't the city's first innocent shooting victim. In the past month or so, authorities say, two other men were shot dead by bullets intended for somebody else.

On Feb. 27, James Kilby, 29, of Union Gap died at a local hospital after he was shot in a car outside a Yakima grocery store. Authorities believe a friend who had called Kilby for a ride home was the intended target.

A week later, David R. Duarte, 40, of Yakima was shot dead while riding in his nephew's car. Police say Duarte was not involved in gangs but his nephew belongs to one.

In October, just a few blocks from where Tuesday's shooting happened, another man was shot to death during a Halloween party. Authorities say Jason Baldoz, 34, was not a gang member, but the shooter is.

Arrests have been made in all three of those cases.

The tally of innocent people wounded in Yakima shootings in the past year includes: a 20-year-old farm
worker who made the mis-take of wearing red clothing; a 62-year-old man selling ice
cream bars from his bicycle cart; a 23-year-old Michigan woman sitting on a porch; and a 13-year-old girl doing homework in her bedroom.

* Melissa Sánchez can be reached at 509-577-7675 or

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