A Pasco man admitted Wednesday that he was involved in a gang-related shooting in Kennewick earlier this year that put four people at risk.
Hector Huerta, 19, pleaded guilty in Benton County Superior Court toone count of second-degree assault with gang allegations.
In his plea, he said the April 27 shooting was gang-related and motivated to benefit the gang, court documents said.
He had been charged with four counts of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon.
"We had the potential of going to a lengthy trial where my client had a good shot of showing he was not the shooter," said defense attorney Kevin Holt.
But, Holt said, Huerta still could have been found guilty under the state's accomplice liability law and would have faced a sentence of almost 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors agreed to amend the charge to the single count becausewitnesses gave differing statements about who the shooter was, documents said. One of the uninvolved witnesses identified Huerta as the person who fired the gun, but another witness identified someone else, documents said.
Another witness believed to have been involved in the crime said Huerta was the shooter, but prosecutors said there were credibility issues with that witness.
Because Huerta had no prior criminal history, he faced a standard sentencing range of three to nine months in jail. He was sentenced to six months in jail.
The drive-by shooting was outside an apartment complex near Fourth Avenue and apparently escalated from a gang-related dispute. Witnesses said they saw two groups of people dressed in red and blue get into a fight before shots were fired, court document said.
Several people were outside at the time and they said bullets came close enough that they could hear them "whizzing" by, documents said.
A truck with Huerta and the other suspects was identified using surveillance videos and officers determined the truck was registered to Jaime Fernando Ruiz, 26, of Kennewick. Witnesses reportedly identified Ruiz from a photo montage.
Ruiz and Huerta were arrested in May during a gang sweep in the Tri-Cities.
Ruiz reportedly told police he was at the scene but denied firing the gun, documents said. He is facing a Sept. 17 trial on four counts of second-degree assault with a gun enhancement and gang allegations.
Benton City man pleads innocent in assault case
A 21-year-old Benton City man faces an Oct. 8 trial for allegedly threatening another man with a knife and gun.
Alejandro Ayala pleaded innocent Wednesday in Benton County Superior Court to second-degree assault and possessing meth. He remains in the Benton County jail on $100,000 bail.
According to court documents, Ayala was in Benton City on Aug. 8 and accused Ariel Hester and Erik Hubbard of stealing drugs from him.
Hubbard and Ayala went to the bathroom to talk about it and that's when Ayala reportedly locked the door and pulled out a switch-blade and gun.
Ayala pointed the knife at Hubbard's chest and held the gun to his face, documents said. He reportedly threatened to stab Hubbard.
When Hester yelled that she was going to call police, Ayala responded, "Good, because they are going to have a mess to clean up," documents said.
Ayala allegedly punched Hubbard several times in the face. Hester said about 20 minutes later, Hubbard "ran out all bloody," documents said.
Ayala was arrested two days later and when Benton County sheriff's deputies searched his car, they found 11 grams of meth, officials said.
Richland man awaiting sentencing gets new attorney
A 28-year-old Richland man who has been waiting to be sentenced for hitting three police cars during a high-speed chase two years ago was appointed a new attorney Wednesday.
Elvis Camillo R. Lopez objected to the change in attorney and again to the delay to his sentencing.
Lopez was found guilty by a Benton County Superior Court jury in April of second- and third-degree assault, second-degree taking a vehicle without permission, first-degree robbery and two counts of attempting to elude police.
The jury also returned special verdicts that he was armed with a deadly weapon -- the car -- when he assaulted a deputy and for endangering the lives of others during the chase.
Lopez was in court last week, but the sentencing was continued when defense attorney Scott Etherton asked for more time.
Lopez also filed a handwritten motion claiming his speedy trial rights were violated when his trial was delayed in December for 13 weeks. He also said his right to be sentenced within 60 days has been violated.
Judge Bruce Spanner gave Etherton a week to determine if he needed to withdraw from the case because of Lopez's motion.
On Wednesday, Etherton said there now is a conflict between him and his client because of the claims by Lopez, and he no longer can represent him.
Judge Vic VanderSchoor appointed Scott Johnson to represent Lopez. He is expected back in Spanner's court Wednesday.
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org