Five men were killed and a sixth wounded when they were gunned down in an east Pasco auto body shop in what's believed to be the worst ever massacre in the Tri-Cities.
According to Pasco Chief Don Francis, six men were working on an old car inside Medina's Body Shop at 1101 East A St., about 7 p.m. when two Hispanic men walked into the shop, looked around, left and returned moments later and "started shooting" with what he said were semi-automatic weapons.
Four men died at the scene. A fifth died one hour later at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center.
Police were alerted earlier to the massacre by the sixth man in the shop, Jesse Rocio, 20, of Pasco, who after being shot in the side, hid under the car until the assailants left. He then drove himself to the police department.
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Lourdes officials said they could not give a condition report on Rocio, but police officials said he is expected to recover.
Based upon a description of the getaway car given by Rocio, a mechanic who works at Medina's, police stopped a dark blue Mazda RX7 about two blocks from the scene at about 7:30 p.m. and took into custody two Hispanic men. However, they were later released by police, who said they were merely at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Pasco police later issued an all-points bulletin asking police to be on the lookout for a dark blue Mazda RX7.
Police and hospital officials declined to release the name of the man who died at the hospital, and at midnight police said they had not yet determined the identity of the four dead men in the garage. Technicians were sketching and photographing the bodies.
Rosemary Rocio, Jesse's wife, said her husband had left home earlier in the evening to work on a car at the garage. She said she and her husband had lived in Pasco for a year.
At the hospital, women were sobbing as they waited to see if their husbands, sons or boyfriends were among the dead.
Josephine Cortez, 20, was at the police station waiting to see of her husband, Francisco Cortez, was alive. "He went to Medina's at around 6 p.m. to see about buying a car and he did not come back," she said.
Clifford Medina, owner of the body shop, talked with police at the scene and at the police station. Medina's two-stall body shop sits close to the railroad tracks, just off A street in the industrial part of east Pasco. The metal building, with a hand-painted sign reading Medina's Body Shop, is surrounded by chain-link fencing.
Police said the assailants entered the front door, which leads into a small office, and then went through another door into the body shop. Francis said semi-automatic weapons, including at least one rifle, were used and casings littered the floor.
According to Francis, there were no signs of a struggle. The bodies were sprawled on the floor on the side of the car away from the doorway.
Detective Sgt. Terry Trulson said the men were greasy as though they had been working on the car and that tools were scattered everywhere. He said the men looked as though they had started to scramble to get under the car when the shooting started.
Earlier in the evening, federal officials had made seven arrests, including four in Pasco, in connection with a drug money laundering scheme. Though the home of the alleged leader of the scheme was only four blocks from the scene of the shooting, U.S. Customs agent Ray Dunn said, "There is no apparent connection. "
However, another official involved in the federal case said there could be a "tangential connection," between the two crimes because one of the persons involved in shooting incident may have worked for the drug ring..
Francis said, "If theft is a connection between what happened here tonight and the federal arrests, it's yet to be known. But it's the first thing I thought of when I heard about these shootings."
The chief said his "immediate assumption," is that Tuesday's massacre involved a sour drug deal.
"If this is drug-connected, it points up the seriousness of the drug problem in Pasco and in the Tri-Cities. This helps to make the case for additional police resources in Pasco."
He said Pasco's drug problem "isn't easing, it's getting worse all the time."
Earlier this year, he said, "we put officers on the streets to go after drug dealers. We made 38 arrests in four months. But I couldn't maintain that effort for more than three or four months because there were other things I had to put that manpower on."
Trulson, who was in charge of the investigation, said, "There's some bad people out here."
Before Tuesday night, the most' people believed killed in a single incident in the Tri-Cities was four on Aug. 11, 1960. Two men and two women were lined up on the floor of an east Pasco home and shot in the head. A 13-year-old boy escaped death by hiding behind a sofa in an adjoining room. The killer was never found.
The last multiple homicide in Pasco was in 1983 when George E. Johnson charged through a Pasco neighborhood, stabbing two men to death and wounding two others. Johnson is serving three consecutive life sentences