Police found two large knives Thursday that they said were used to stab Gerardo Villamar Jr. to death as he left a family party late Christmas Eve.
Officers are still searching for the man suspected of stabbing Villamar in the back and wounding two of his cousins in a possible gang fight.
The knives were found in the backyard of a house in the east Kennewick neighborhood where Villamar, 23, was stabbed, said Sgt. Ken Lattin.
A witness told police he saw the suspect jump a fence near the house on the 200 block of East Second Avenue after the fight just before midnight.
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A police dog led officers to the knives during a search of the neighborhood, Lattin said. The knives -- one a common hunting-style knife and the other with a curved blade and ornate handle -- were bloody when officers found them.
The knives will be sent to the Washington State Crime Lab for fingerprint and DNA testing, police said.
Other knives were reportedly found at the scene of the fight.
Villamar left a family party on Date Street with his three cousins around 11:50 p.m. Tuesday, Lattin said. One cousin is a documented gang member. Villamar is reportedly not a documented gang member and police are unsure if he had any gang affiliations.
The group was near the intersection at East Second Avenue and Beech Street when a fight erupted with the unknown suspect, Lattin said.
Neighbors called police to report that several men were yelling at each other and they heard a bottle break. Police said the suspect stabbed the three men and took off running.
He is described as being about 5-foot-10 or 5-foot-11, with an athletic build and short black hair. He was wearing a plaid sweatshirt, white shoes and possibly had a baseball hat. Police said he may be gang affiliated.
Soon after, Villamar and his cousin Erick J. Nieto, 23, showed up at the Trios Health emergency room, police said.
Villamar had stab wounds to his upper back and medical officials could not save him. Nieto had minor hand and arm wounds.
Benton County Coroner John Hansens confirmed after an autopsy Thursday that Villamar died from the stab wounds.
About 12:30 a.m. Christmas morning, Villamar’s cousin Jose A. Vazquez-Villanueva, 39, also showed up at Trios and was treated for stab wounds to his arm and he was later released.
Nieto’s brother, Rafael, 24, who was not injured, also was at Trios, where police questioned him about the fight.
Police eventually arrested Vazquez-Villanueva and the Nietos and they were booked into the Benton County jail on suspicion of rioting. The three appeared briefly Thursday in Benton County District Court.
Erick Nieto is being held on $2,500 bail. Rafael Nieto is being held on $3,500 bail. And Vazquez-Villanueva is on an immigration hold, according to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.
Both the Nietos also had outstanding warrants when they were arrested.
None of the men are suspected of killing Villamar, Lattin said.
Investigators found a gray Pontiac that may have been used to take Villamar to the hospital. The car was impounded for further investigation.
Anyone with information on the stabbings or the suspect is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 586-8477, 800-222-8477 or www.tricitiescrimestoppers.org.