Crime

He said goodbye to his kids, then fired 7 times. Pasco police returned with 21 shots

Edwin Espejo, 31, is charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder for firing seven times at Pasco police after ignoring repeated orders to drop his gun. He is pictured here in 2010.
Edwin Espejo, 31, is charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder for firing seven times at Pasco police after ignoring repeated orders to drop his gun. He is pictured here in 2010.

A Pasco man wanted police to kill him in an exchange of gunfire earlier this month because he refused to go back to jail, court documents claim.

Edwin Espejo, 31, expressed his love to three of his children, told them goodbye and sent them out of the basement, where the agitated father was confronted by six Pasco officers.

Then — after ignoring orders to drop his gun and a failed attempt at being subdued with a Taser — Espejo started shooting at police, documents said.

Three officers returned fire, hitting Espejo several times but not killing him.

In the end, Espejo emptied his .45-caliber Sturm Ruger semi-automatic pistol of all seven rounds.

Officers John D’Aquila and Matt Griffin and Reserve Officer David Dillsworth fired a total of 21 shots from their .45-caliber Glock pistols.

The officers weren’t hit, though a bullet did go through D’Aquila’s pant leg.

Pasco police responded to the South Ninth Avenue home that night for a domestic violence incident. Espejo is a convicted felon with a history of domestic disputes involving his wife, Maria Ordaz.

The details of what allegedly happened just before midnight Sept. 16 were revealed in a probable cause affidavit unsealed Friday morning.

The shooting investigation is being handled by a handful of officers from other Tri-City law enforcement agencies.

The three officers who fired their guns remain on paid administrative leave until the report is completed by the Tri-City Special Investigations Unit. Only D’Aquila had been interviewed before Richland Detective Luke Flohr filed the probable cause affidavit in court.

Espejo is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with three counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count each of second-degree unlawful possession of a gun, fourth-degree assault with domestic violence and interfering with the reporting of domestic violence.

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

Espejo is being held on $2.5 million bail in the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla so he can be treated in the prison's secure medical facility. He will be booked into the Franklin County jail once he is medically cleared.

Emergency dispatchers received the first 911 call at 11:48 p.m. The caller’s name is not listed on the first call, but dispatchers noted hearing “yelling and hitting,” and kids shouting to “call the cops.”

Ordaz, Espejo’s wife, later told a Richland detective that her husband had been drinking all day and was arguing with her about the TV.

“He was drunk things got outta control,” she wrote in a statement for police.

She told their six kids to grab their things because they were going to leave. Espejo got mad, said she wasn’t going anywhere with the kids and called her “bad names,” Ordaz told Richland Detective Bob Benson.

Ordaz said their 13-year-old daughter had intervened, so she told the girl to call for help. Espejo wouldn’t let her, so Ordaz said she grabbed the phone from the teen, dialed 911 herself and put the phone down with the line open, court documents said.

Ordaz said “everyone ran outside” when the police arrived, adding that she thought her husband fled out to the backyard, documents said. It wasn’t until she heard gunshots come from the basement and saw Espejo on a gurney being loaded into an ambulance that she realized he never left the house.

She also told Benson she didn’t know if her husband had a gun.

The wife previously told the Herald that she and Espejo had argued loudly, but denied any domestic violence or the need for officers to go inside.

After getting the 911 call, D’Aquila, Griffin, Dillsworth and Officers Ana Ramos, Bob Harris and Josh Glass all squeezed into the basement to find out what was wrong. They found Espejo seated on a mattress with two young kids in his arms and another running around in front of him.

Once the kids were upstairs, Griffin reportedly told Espejo to put his gun down, show his hands and walk toward them. D’Aquila told investigators he heard Griffin say, “Don’t do it” and “Nobody wants to hurt you.”

Ramos said Espejo was yelling in English that he didn’t want his kids to see and asking if they were out of the basement.

A few officers reported hearing Espejo say he was not going back to jail. D’Aquila added that Espejo removed his shirt indicating he wanted to fight.

The opening in the basement was only big enough for three officers to see Espejo, documents said.

Griffin asked for an officer with a Taser to move next to him, then D’Aquila tried to shock Espejo with the probes, court documents. The probes hit Espejo, but didn’t make a good connection.

D’Aquila saw Espejo “go for something,” then saw a “muzzle flash” near the dresser. D’Aquila estimates he fired four to five shots at Espejo.

After the gunfire stopped, Griffin and D’Aquila got the gun away from Espejo, handcuffed him and quickly started placing tourniquets and bandages on his limbs to stop the bleeding, court documents said.

Ramos, Harris and Glass did not fire their pistols.

Investigators found three bullet holes in the washer and dryer, which were directly behind where D’Aquila, Griffin and Dillsworth were standing during the shooting.

Seven casings from Espejo’s pistol were found on or around the mattress. Twenty-one spent casings from the officers’ guns were around the washer and dryer area, documents said.

Flohr concluded in the affidavit that Espejo’s statements about not going to jail, the muzzle flash before officers returned fire and the emptied Sturm Ruger “provide evidence indicating Edwin was attempting to prevent officers from taking him into custody, and ultimately his going to jail, by using deadly force against the officers in the performance of their lawful duties.”

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

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