Crime

Pasco police saved his life. Now he’s charged with trying to kill them

A Pasco father of six involved in a gunfight with police earlier this month has been charged with attempted murder for each of the three officers.

Edwin Espejo, 31, was released Wednesday from Kadlec Regional Medical Center.

He had been at the Richland hospital since Sept. 17 after being shot several times in an exchange of gunfire with Pasco police, who were called to a domestic violence incident at his home.

Espejo was booked into the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

It is unknown why Espejo was taken to the state prison and not the Franklin County jail. It could be to remove any conflict with being held in a partner facility while the investigation is ongoing or because of his medical needs.

A $2.5 million arrest warrant was issued Tuesday when Superior Court Judge Jackie Shea Brown found probable cause to charge Espejo with three counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of second-degree unlawful possession of a gun, all felonies.

The attempted murder charges include allegations he was armed with a gun, which could bring enhanced penalties if convicted.

He also is charged with two gross misdemeanors: fourth-degree assault with domestic violence and interfering with the reporting of domestic violence.

Police were called shortly before midnight Sept. 16 to a South Ninth Avenue home. Police have not said who called 911.

Espejo was in the basement with some of his kids.

After the officers talked him into letting the kids go upstairs, Espejo allegedly reached for a nearby .45-caliber Ruger handgun. Pasco Capt. Ken Roske said officers tried to shock Espejo with a Taser but it did not work.

That’s when Espejo allegedly fired several rounds at the officers standing across the room, said Roske. All three returned fire, hitting Espejo.

Police have not said how many shots were fired by either side.

“We know that Mr. Espejo fired directly at our officers and narrowly missed them,” Roske said in a news release days after the shooting. “Because of the heroic efforts of the three officers, they were able to ensure the safety of the two children and, after being fired upon, their immediate life-saving measures likely saved Mr. Espejo’s life.”

The officers immediately applied tourniquets and gave other medical care to Espejo until paramedics arrived, he said.

Officers Matt Griffin, John D’Aquila and David Dillsworth, who were not injured, are on paid administrative leave while the Tri-City Special Investigations Unit works the case. Dillsworth is a reserve officer.

The court documents explaining the probable cause to charge Espejo have been temporarily sealed for a few days to allow investigators time to interview the officers involved.

The motion to seal, signed by Judge Shea Brown, said one officer already gave a statement and the other two were scheduled to meet with detectives this week.

“The purpose for sealing the (probable cause) affidavit is to protect the integrity of the investigation and to prevent any media publication of the details contained within the affidavit from reaching the suspect or involved officers until after the officers have provided witness statements,” said the motion, written by Richland Detective Luke Flohr. “This will protect the rights of the accused and the integrity of the investigation.”

The charging document says Espejo assaulted his wife, Maria Ordaz, and unlawfully restrained her from leaving the home that night. He also allegedly grabbed “the cell(phone) from the victim so she could not call the authorities.”

Ordaz defended her husband shortly after the shooting, telling the Herald he had changed in recent years and that he had not abused her that night. She said she told responding officers that she and Espejo had argued loudly, but that there was no need for police.

Espejo’s convictions in Washington state include obstructing an officer, fourth-degree assault with domestic violence and felony assault in violation of a no-contact order. He also has an assault out of Los Angeles County. The assaults all involve his wife.

Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531, @KristinMKraemer

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