The Saturday night gunfight between a Pasco man and police in a basement on South Ninth Avenue could have ended much worse.
Gunshots narrowly missed officers standing across the room from the 31-year-old man, and three of his kids had just left the basement, said Pasco police Capt. Ken Roske at a Tuesday morning news conference.
But Edwin Espejo’s wife Maria Ordaz told the Herald she did not understand how an argument with her husband could end with him being shot seven times. Though he had a history of domestic violence, she said he had changed in recent years.
She is devastated and their six children traumatized, she said in an interview after watching online video of the police news conference at home.
Ordaz and all the children were home when police received a 911 call reporting a violent domestic incident at the Espejo home at 910 S. Ninth Ave. Police have not said who made the call.
Roske said officers arrived about 11:45 p.m. to find an agitated Espejo in his basement with three of his young children.
Officers talked Espejo into allowing the kids to leave and they were quickly taken upstairs, Roske said.
That’s when officers spotted a handgun next to Espejo and warned him not to touch it.
When he reached for it, officers tried to shoot him with a Taser to shock him but that didn’t work, said Roske.
He said Espejo then fired several rounds directly at three officers standing across the room. All three officers fired back, hitting Espejo several times, Roske said.
Police did not say how many shots were fired by either side.
The officers were Matt Griffin, John D’Aquilla and David Dillsworth, a Pasco reserve officer. None were injured, but a bullet pierced the leg of D’Aquilla’s pants near his ankle.
Ordaz was outside in front of the house with the couple’s oldest child, a 13-year-old girl, when the first officer arrived.
She told him she and Espejo had argued loudly, but there was no need for officers to go inside.
“There was no domestic violence. None. I was not hurt. My kids were not hurt. No one was hurt,” she said.
And Ordaz said she was not concerned that the children were in the basement. “He would not harm them in anyway,” she said.
Despite her objections, she believes, five or six officers went downstairs where Espejo was with couple’s three youngest children, ages 3, 6 and 9.
She said the older boy claimed the officers pointed a gun at him. Gunfire erupted when the boy was still at the top of the stairs, she said.
He ran outside shouting, “They killed my dad,” said Ordaz, who was still outside at the time. “There were so many (shots),” she said.
She kept asking the officer if her husband had been killed. “I don’t know,” the officer told her. She watched as Espejo was carried out of the house unconscious and in handcuffs, she said.
Roske said officers immediately applied tourniquets and gave other medical care to Espejo until paramedics arrived. The officers likely saved his life, he said.
Espejo was taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, where he remained Tuesday in stable condition, Roske said.
Ordaz said he had surgeries on a a shattered right tibia and a wound in his left buttock, she said. He also had wounds on his arms, back and hip and where bullets grazed his ribs, she said.
Roske said Espejo is a convicted felon with prior arrests for domestic violence. Ordaz claims he has been out of trouble for several years.
“I’m not afraid of him,” she said. “He has come a long ways. He’s owned up with what he’s done.”
Court records show Espejo’s criminal history in Washington dates to 2007, when he was arrested in Pasco for DUI.
Later that year, he was charged in Franklin County with felony assault in violation of a no-contact order. At the time, Ordaz told police that Espejo came to the home to visit his kids and they argued.
He threatened to hit her, but didn't because she was pregnant, though he ended up grabbing and twisting her fingers, court documents said. The protection order was from Los Angeles County, where Espejo previously had assaulted her.
Espejo pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of fourth-degree assault with domestic violence and got one month in jail.
Three years later in May 2010, Ordaz sought protection for herself and four children. She wrote in the petition that when Espejo gets angry, he breaks stuff, hits himself and threatens to hit her.
She wrote at the time that there have been other times of physical abuse she had not reported.
Three months later, Ordaz was cut on her forehead and foot when Espejo kicked in a bedroom door. He had just returned from California. He pleaded guilty to felony assault in violation of a no-contact order and was sentenced to six months in jail.
And in 2013, Espejo pleaded guilty in Benton County District Court to obstructing an officer. He was fined and given a suspended sentence.
Ordaz admitted Tuesday that Espejo had been troubled in the past but said he had turned his life around.
She is a stay-at-home mother and Espejo, a U.S. citizen, worked long hours at Tyson Foods to support his family.
They had just put $20,000 down on a home in the Road 68 area of Pasco and were about to fulfill a dream of moving to what they saw as a better neighborhood. Now the money is in jeopardy if the purchase does not proceed, she said.
“He’s a hard-working man,” said Espejo’s mother, Belinda Jimenez, who arrived with other relatives from California after the shooting. She said she will stay in Pasco as long as it takes to get justice for her son.
Espejo worked overtime to make sure he could keep his children enrolled in sports programs, Ordaz said.
“It was not easy. It was not cheap. But we wanted better for our kids,” she said.
She’s worried about the immediate future after officers seized her husband’s wallet, including the money and ATM card it held, leaving her without access to their money, she said.
She’s also worried about her children. “Even the oldest keeps hearing gunshots, even though this happened Saturday,” Ordaz said.
Roske said criminal charges in the current case will come from the Franklin County prosecutor and the Tri-City Special Investigation Unit. Kennewick police Commander Craig Littrell is leading the investigation.
The officers who shot Espejo are on administrative leave while the Tri-City Special Investigation Unit works the case. None of the three has been in a police-involved shooting before, Roske said.
“Already this year there have been 92 police officers in this country killed in the line of duty,” Roske said. “We are lucky there wasn’t more on Saturday.”
One of the officers who responded Saturday, Griffin, has experience as a crisis negotiator, Roske said.
Griffin has been a Pasco officer for five years and has been with the Tri-City Regional SWAT Team for three years.
D’Aquilla has been a Pasco officer for 2 1/2 years. Dillsworth had been a Pasco reserve officer for two years.
“We are extremely proud of the courageous actions of our officers and their commitment to our community,” Roske said.