Franklin Co. prosecutor says Pasco homeowner acted in self-defense in shooting death

Tri-City HeraldMarch 19, 2014 

A homeowner acted in self-defense and was justified in shooting a highly intoxicated man trying to get into his Pasco home last month, the Franklin County prosecutor said Wednesday.

Rudy Ontiveros Jr. will not face charges for shooting Stephan S. Aceves four times in the hand, chest and head, Prosecutor Shawn Sant announced at a news conference.

Pasco police had been investigating the shooting for more than four weeks to determine if Ontiveros, a nuclear plant security guard, acted in self-defense.

Lab tests showed Aceves had a blood alcohol level of 0.35 percent — more than four times the legal limit to be considered drunk in Washington — when he pounded on Ontiveros’ door and tried to force his way inside, Sant said.

Aceves, 28, of Pasco, made it inside the house about 2:30 a.m. Feb. 14 before he was shot.

Sant said he believes Ontiveros was scared for his life and was within his rights when he used his .9 mm pistol to shoot Aceves. Ontiveros’ fiancée and four small children also were home.

Sant said he might have considered charging Aceves with burglary if he had survived.

Aceves’ family has said he was drinking at a relative’s house the night of the incident, went outside and may have mistook Ontiveros’ house for his stepbrother’s home around the corner.

“This is a tragic incident and a reminder that alcohol is a drug and can have horrific consequences, especially at elevated levels,” Sant said. “After a review of all the statements and evidence in the case, and in consultation with members of my office and law enforcement, it is our decision that the shooting is ruled a justifiable homicide.”

Sant also released information Wednesday that Aceves was involved in a similar incident in March 2011 in his hometown of Troy, Mont.

An intoxicated Aceves entered a home without permission and was held at gunpoint by the homeowner until police arrived, Sant said. Officers ended up driving Aceves home and he was not charged with a crime.

Sand said that incident did not factor into his decision. He met with Aceves’ family shortly before the news conference.

Family members told the Herald they are angry with Sant’s decision and skeptical of the entire investigation. They said they are upset police did not test Ontiveros for alcohol or drugs after the shooting.

Donna Bush, Aceves’ mother, said the family is considering a wrongful death lawsuit against Ontiveros.

“It seemed to us like (Sant) based his decision completely and solely on Ontiveros’ story. That’s how it felt to us,” Bush said. “We had a lot of questions that weren’t satisfactorily answered. We were hoping for a different outcome.”

Police said the night of the shooting, Ontiveros was awoken about 2:30 a.m. by pounding at the door and dogs barking, Sant said. Ontiveros grabbed the pistol and went to the front door.

Ontiveros saw Aceves and tried to show through a small glass window that he was armed, Sant said. His fiancée told investigators Ontiveros yelled several times at Aceves to leave. Ontiveros eventually partially opened the front door.

“Rudy states that (Aceves) forced his way into the home using his forearms to force the door open,” Sant said. “The 911 call had just connected and you can hear Rudy yell what sounds like ‘get the (expletive) out’ followed by four gunshots.”

Sant gave several reasons why Ontiveros opened the door, saying he might have wanted to scare Aceves off the property and noticed a deadbolt on the door was unlocked.

The shots were fired in about one second and Aceves fell backward onto the front porch, Sant said. His legs and feet were inside the home when officers arrived.

Sant said evidence at the scene and the medical examiner’s report back up Ontiveros’ account of what happened.

Two bullet fragments hit the front of the door, indicating that the door was open when the shots were fired, Sant said. All four shell casings were found in the living room close to the front door.

“Evidence at the scene clearly indicates that (Aceves) was shot while inside the home,” Sant said.

Sant said he also considered that Aceves was much taller than Ontiveros.

Ontiveros, who is 5-foot-4, told investigators that he backed up while firing the shots at the 6-foot-5 Aceves as he started to come into the house. “Rudy described (Aceves’) entry into the home as ‘scaring the (expletive) out of (me),’ ” Sant said.

Aceves’ father, Alfredo, told the Herald his son was confused and Ontiveros should never have opened the door or shot him. He said people in the Tri-Cities should be fearful of homeowners like Ontiveros.

“I told the prosecutor that what he did was give free reign to everyone who owns a weapon in the community or city,” Alfredo Aceves said. “I am going to tell my friends and family that come to Franklin County just to be aware that if you need help and knock on someone’s door, you will be shot four times and killed.”

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com: Twitter; @Ty_richardson

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