A shooting that claimed the life of a 22-year-old man late Wednesday is the latest in a series of “targeted assaults” that have left multiple people hurt or dead in Pasco, police said.
The violence that has swept through Pasco in recent weeks continued shortly before midnight Wednesday as suspects killed Lorenzo R. Fernandez Jr. while he drove his orange Ford Mustang through the parking lot of the Stonegate Apartments on Road 68.
Fernandez, of Pasco, was shot multiple times inside the car, which then crashed into several parked vehicles, police said. Police arrived and found him dead.
Police said investigators found shell casings from a semi-automatic pistol at the scene. Police said there were few witnesses, but they continue to work to identify suspects and a motive.
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LaVonn Mathis told the Herald he was in his third-floor apartment with his pregnant wife when he heard tires squeal from the parking lot below and at least five shots fired.
“(Fernandez) was trying to take off and he was revving his engine,” said Mathis, 26. “When he threw it in drive, all you heard was ‘pow, pow, pow, pow, pow.’ I just told my family to get down.”
Mathis ran down to the parking lot to see Fernandez breathing heavily and other people trying to help, he said. Seconds later Fernandez took his last breath, and police quickly arrived on scene.
“Whoever did that wanted to kill that man,” Mathis said.
Fernandez did not live at the apartment complex, and officials are trying to determine exactly why he was there, police said.
The Franklin County Coroner’s Office identified Fernandez soon after the shooting, and an autopsy could be performed Dec. 5.
Fernandez’s shooting death is the third in the Tri-Cities in the past three weeks.
In three other shootings in Pasco the week before Thanksgiving, suspects shot five people and killed one in what investigators said likely is gang-related violence.
Anthony Guerrero, 20, died hours after two suspects shot him multiple times Nov. 19. He sat in his parked car on West Marie Street when suspects fired at him. His two friends also were hit. Witnesses saw the suspects leave the scene.
Guerrero’s family and friends said the former Pasco High School student was not a gang member.
Less than 24 hours earlier, just a few blocks away on West Margaret Street, three men were shot inside a car as they returned home from a casino. All suffered non-life threatening wounds; witnesses saw two armed suspects at the scene.
Authorities have not yet made any arrests.
Police Chief Bob Metzger emphasized that the shootings are not random and each one has been a “targeted assault,” he said.
“They know who they are going after,” Metzger said. “There is a reason this is being done and we are investigating based on those reasons.”
Police are working around the clock to track down and identify suspects in all of the Pasco shootings, Metzger said. He called on the public to provide tips and information that could help the investigation.
Authorities said they have identified a person of interest in the Nov. 18 shooting on West Margaret Street. They want DeShawn Anderson, 18, for questioning.
Police have searched for him for two weeks.
Investigators also are “looking hard” at another person in the Guerrero killing, Metzger said. Deputy U.S. Marshals and other law enforcement agencies are helping Pasco police with the investigations.
“We are narrowing in on some pretty good suspects at this point,” he said.
Police have not determined if the shooting Wednesday night has any ties to recent gang violence in the area. However, records show Fernandez was arrested and charged in 2010 with what police called a shooting between rival gangs.
Records also show Fernandez was involved in a large gang shootout at a crowded Chiawana Park when he was 18 years old. Police arrested him and seven others; prosecutors charged them with felony crimes after shots rang out through the park as hundreds enjoyed a warm summer evening.
A then 23-year-old man was reportedly jumped by a group of people Fernandez was with and one of them drew a gun, records show. The victim drew his weapon, which he had a concealed permit for, and they exchanged multiple shots. One of the suspects was shot twice during the incident.
Authorities charged Fernandez with second-degree assault and three counts of second-degree reckless endangerment following the incident. Court records show he ended up pleading guilty to a riot charge.
Anyone with information about the recent shootings is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 509-586-8477, 800-222-8477 or www.tricitiescrimestoppers.org. All calls are confidential.