Stephan Sergio Aceves was confused about where he was and was not trying to break into a Pasco home when he was shot to death, his family told the Herald Monday.
Police found Aceves, 28, dead last Friday near the front door of a house at 8011 Savary Drive. A woman inside the house called police at 2:30 a.m. to report a man had broken in.
Police have not named the homeowner who shot Aceves. The Herald has confirmed his identity as Rudy Ontiveros Jr., a security guard at Energy Northwest.
Ontiveros -- who lives with his girlfriend and at least three young children -- was not arrested after the shooting. The Franklin County prosecutor is reviewing the case.
Aceves was celebrating an anniversary at his stepbrother's house around the corner from 8011 Savary Drive when he stepped outside, possibly to smoke a cigarette, around 2:30 a.m., his family said. He had been drinking alcohol at Applebee's in Pasco prior to the incident.
Moments later, Aceves' stepbrother, Clinton Bush, went outside to look for Aceves and heard gunshots, he said.
"I got down to the intersection and heard 'bang, bang, bang, bang,' " Bush said. "It was as fast as you could imagine pulling a trigger."
Aceves' family thinks he got lost when he went outside and mistook Ontiveros' house for his stepbrother's, they said. Aceves moved to the Tri-Cities from Missoula, Mont., in November and had only been to his stepbrother's house once before.
The two houses are less than a block apart.
Family members said Aceves most likely thought he had been locked out of the house and began to bang on the door.
"The houses look identical," said Donna Bush, Aceves' mother. "We believe Stephan must have gotten confused and went to the wrong house. He must have thought they were playing a trick on him or something."
Police said the homeowner woke up to pounding at his front door and grabbed a gun. A confrontation took place inside the house. Several shots were fired from a handgun.
Several neighbors reported hearing pounding coming from Ontiveros' house, followed by four gunshots.
Ontiveros reportedly told neighbors Aceves lunged at him before he shot him. They said Ontiveros was "visibly shaken" after the incident and felt threatened.
Aceves' family told the Herald they are upset with Ontiveros and think there was no reason Aceves needed to be shot.
"Why did (Ontiveros) even have to open the door?" Donna Bush said. "He couldn't wait for the cops to arrive before shooting my son?"
Aceves' father, Alfredo Aceves, said he would like to speak to Ontiveros about what happened the night his son was killed.
"I don't know this man. As a parent I would like to know why he opened the door and shot my son," he said. "All (Aceves) had on him was his wallet and his keys. You call 911. You don't open the door."
The Aceves family stood outside Ontiveros' home Monday night and lit candles to remember their loved one. Alfredo Aceves held up a picture of his son facing Ontiveros' front window as people inside the house peeked through the blinds. The family stood quiet for around 20 minutes before grabbing hands and saying a prayer.
"I am trying to be strong for my family," Alfredo Aceves said. "But a piece of our heart has been ripped out and I don't wish this feeling on anybody."
Family members say they remember the 6-foot-5 Aceves as a "gentle giant," who was always smiling and loved to spend time with his family. He worked in the meat department at the Pasco Walmart and was just starting to get settled in the Tri-Cities.
He was born in Troy, Mont., and lived in Missoula for 10 years before deciding to move to the Tri-Cities three months ago to be closer to family, his mother said. He liked to do jigsaw puzzles and listen to music and was an avid sports fan.
Family members are also upset that Aceves has been portrayed as an intruder, they said.
"We just want it to be known who he was and what he meant to all of us," said Amelia Gutierrez-Aceves, Aceves' aunt. "He was always smiling. We want him to be portrayed as who he was."
The Aceves family is still trying to make sense of and piece together what happened the night of the shooting, they said.
Aceves wasn't overly intoxicated the night he was killed, family members said. He was laughing and talking moments before he left his stepbrother's house to go outside.
"This is a mother's worst nightmare," Donna Bush said. "We have analyzed it. We have dissected it. And none of it makes sense."
w Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Ty_richardson