A Pasco teen who turns 18 on Thursday gained his first conviction as an adult after accepting responsibility for his role in a gang shooting at Pasco's Chiawana Park.
Jose Contreras-Gomez pleaded guilty Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court to unlawful possession of a firearm, a felony, and three counts of second-degree reckless endangerment, gross misdemeanors.
As part of a plea agreement, charges of first-degree assault and rioting were dismissed.
Contreras-Gomez's case was automatically moved from juvenile court to adult court because of the assault charge.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Contreras-Gomez presented a written statement to Judge Bruce Spanner and apologized in court for making the families who were spending a sunny summer Sunday at the park "horrified for their children" when the shots rang out.
"I just want to change my life," the teen said. "I've been living this way for the past six years, and I finally came to my senses and realized it's not worth it."
Contreras-Gomez said he wants to change his life for his girlfriend and child and wants to make his parents proud.
Defense attorney Jim Egan said he has represented a number of young men over the years who were involved in gangs or shootings and had no desire to stop.
His client is not like that, Egan said, adding he believes Contreras-Gomez will turn his life around.
"This is a young man who's had enough. He's not going to participate in gangs anymore," Egan said. "He's a tough kid. He recognizes that quitting gangs puts him in some physical peril" but is willing to deal with it.
Egan said Contreras-Gomez has a girlfriend he wants to marry and a baby he wants to raise.
Prosecutor Steve Lowe recommended the top end of the sentencing range -- a year in jail -- for the firearm charge and 90 days on the reckless endangerment charge, for a total of one year and three months in jail. Lowe agreed to allow Contreras-Gomez, who had been held in juvenile detention, to serve the time at the county jail on work release instead of being sent to prison.
Lowe said the teen, who is expected to work at his family's business, won't receive any good time credit, so he will serve the entire 15 months.
Judge Spanner agreed to follow the sentencing recommendation and told Contreras-Gomez to be mindful of who his friends are.
"We all tend to resemble those we hang out with. If we hang out with bad people, we do bad things. If we hang out with good people, we do good things," Spanner said. "Keep that in mind. Find good people to hang out with."
Contreras-Gomez was with a group of gang members who confronted Ronnie Lopez, of Pasco, at a barbecue in Chiawana Park on Aug. 1.
Lopez, 23, said he saw the men in the group "throwing gang signs" as they walked by him, then two of them approached and pulled up their shirts to reveal pistols, police and court documents said.
Lopez reportedly knew the men were gang members and told them he didn't want any trouble. David Reyes then came up behind Lopez, jumped him and started punching him, documents said.
Lopez, who has a concealed weapons permit, pulled out his pistol to use in self defense, but it had no bullet in the chamber, documents said. Reyes fired at Lopez several times and Lopez chambered bullets and fired, hitting Reyes twice.
Reyes pleaded guilty last week to assault with a firearm, rioting and three counts of reckless endangerment. He is to be sentenced Jan. 11.
w Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org