Crime

He’s awaiting trial for shooting at police. He just got sentenced for a Pasco jail attack

Edwin Espejo, right, confers with his attorney Gary Metro during a hearing on his attempted-murder charges. The charges stem from the Sept. 16 gunfight with Pasco police in the basement of his South Ninth Avenue home after officers responded to domestic violence call.
Edwin Espejo, right, confers with his attorney Gary Metro during a hearing on his attempted-murder charges. The charges stem from the Sept. 16 gunfight with Pasco police in the basement of his South Ninth Avenue home after officers responded to domestic violence call. Tri-City Herald

A Pasco man sat quietly in a wheelchair Friday as he was sentenced to eight months for attacking a fellow Franklin County inmate.

Edwin Espejo, 32, had been in the jail for several months awaiting a trial for a shootout with Pasco police when he helped attack the man in a jail cell.

Espejo’s trial for the police shooting — which involved a total 28 gunshots exchanged between both sides — is scheduled for February.

He was convicted in August of attacking Richard Vasquez, who was facing charges for rape and leading police on a high-speed chase. Vasquez has since pleaded guilty to those crimes.

Espejo and two other inmates beat him in a jail cell in June, according to court records. Vasquez suffered a concussion, broken nose and cuts to his mouth and face.

Richard Vasquez court.jpg

Franklin County corrections officers said video cameras in the jail allegedly show inmate Adrian Tejada-Sandoval throwing the first punch, and other inmates, including Espejo, joining in. Officers identified Espejo by his limp.

Another inmate Efren P. Torres already pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault.

Espejo said he was innocent but a jury found him guilty of second-degree assault.

On Friday, his defense attorney Gary Metro asked Judge Cameron Mitchell for a new trial based on a problem with a juror.

The woman was behaving oddly and saying strange things during the deliberations.

While at the time, the attorneys agreed the juror should be replaced, Metro argued on Friday that the woman’s behavior was a sign that she was being pressured by fellow jurors into convicting Espejo.

After the juror was replaced with an alternate who had listened to the same evidence, the jury reached a guilty verdict within 20 minutes.

Metro claimed Friday that quick decision is evidence that the rest of the jurors had already made up their minds, and were trying to push out a dissenting voice.

“It’s clear she was picked on,” he said.

Prosecutor Laura Mapes countered by pointing out the judge stopped deliberations and talked to jurors about their experiences.

“We don’t know what happened in the jury room,” she said. “We’re not allowed to speculate about it. ... This last-ditch effort is without merit.”

Mitchell ruled the juror wasn’t removed because of her opinion, but because she seemed to have problems understanding what was going on.

He then sentenced Espejo to serve eight months.

The sentencing range was six months to a year in jail.

Mapes asked for 10 months, noting Espejo not only participated in the attack, but helped clean up afterward.

Metro requested the least amount of time.

Espejo did not talk during the hearing.

Cameron Probert: 509-582-1402; Twitter: @cameroncprobert
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