Crime

UPDATE: Teen gang member charged with killing Tri-Cities woman. Another teen arrested at Southridge High

Security cameras show gang suspects following victim

Home security cameras show final moments leading up to May 5 fatal shooting of Andrea Nunez, 20, in the 700 block of East Seventh Avenue in Kennewick.
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Home security cameras show final moments leading up to May 5 fatal shooting of Andrea Nunez, 20, in the 700 block of East Seventh Avenue in Kennewick.

The 17-year-old charged in the gang-related slaying of a Kennewick woman fled to Oregon after the shooting.

But Kennewick officers tracked him down after he dropped his cellphone at the shooting site and was seen on a neighbor’s security video.

Adrian Mendoza was arrested Monday evening as he returned to the Tri-Cities in a car full of people, including his mother and her boyfriend.

Prosecutors say the teen acted with premeditated intent early Sunday when he shot Andrea M. Nunez at least once.

The 20-year-old woman was walking with her boyfriend on Seventh Avenue, near Gum Street, at 4:12 a.m. when she was shot.

Murder suspect Adrian Mendoza, 17, appears before Judge Sam Swanberg in Benton County Superior Court for a first-degree murder charge in the shooting death of Andrea Nunez. Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller argues for a $500,000 bail.

Her boyfriend, who stayed with Nunez until help arrived, told police they had heard a man yell “Westside,” so Nunez replied with a shout of “Southside,” according to court documents.

Nunez then fell to the ground fatally wounded, documents said.

Kennewick police announced Tuesday night that they arrested a second 17-year-old boy, this one on suspicion of second-degree murder.

He was picked up at Southridge High School earlier in the day.

Lt. Aaron Clem said the Kennewick campus was briefly locked down “as a precaution while we took the student into custody. There were no weapons at the school and the lockdown was lifted after the suspect was taken into custody.”

The name of the second teen was not released by police. He was booked into the Benton-Franklin Juvenile Detention Center.

Ezekiel Sanchez
Ezekiel Sanchez

Police also are still looking for Ezekiel Sanchez, 22, but have not revealed his alleged role in the murder investigation.

Home security cameras show the suspects around the time of the shooting as they seem to follow Nunez and her boyfriend walking down the street.

The cameras show three men who came from the area of the lower level apartments, and two others who walked past.

Four of them met up and briefly talked, then split, and less than a minute later all five went running different ways, detectives said in court documents.

Screenshots and videos from that surveillance footage were published by police and in the media.

Mendoza reportedly can be seen wearing an “18th Street” shirt while walking east on Seventh toward Gum Street, then shortly after running west on Seventh.

Andrea 5.jpg
Janet Nunez, left and her daughter Andrea Nunez, who was killed May 5 while walking in an east Kennewick neighborhood. Courtesy Janet Nunez

Nunez and her boyfriend also had been walking east. She was shot less than three minutes after passing the apartment, a block away.

It is not known how many times she was shot. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday.

Charged as an adult

Mendoza is charged in Benton County Superior Court with first-degree murder. The case automatically was bumped up to adult court because of the severity of the crime and he is over age 16.

However, he will be held in the Juvenile Detention Center until he turns 18 in October.

Because of the severity of the crime and the lengths Kennewick police needed to go to to catch him, Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller on Tuesday asked for $500,000 bail.

Judge Sam Swanberg agreed with the amount.

The teen’s mother, Maria Rachel Mendoza, 36, was arrested on suspicion of first-degree rendering criminal assistance. She remains in the Benton County jail with bail set at $25,000.

And her boyfriend, Robert S. Agli, 40, was arrested on two felony warrants and suspicion of illegal gun possession. He also has a state Department of Corrections hold.

Nunez curbside memorial
A memorial to fatal shooting victim Andrea Nunez, 20, sits on the curb Tuesday morning near the crime scene on East 7th Avenue in Kennewick. Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

Agli has not been charged in connection with the murder, nor with Adrian Mendoza’s alleged attempts to avoid capture.

Kennewick police say Agli asked another man to drive the teen and his girlfriend to a relative’s home in Oregon and to a store to buy a cellphone, according to court documents.

He then drove Agli back to Pasco, documents said.

Cellphone analysis

In the meantime, Detective Brian Pochert did an initial analysis of the cellphone found in the middle of Seventh Avenue, just west of Gum Street.

He had placed it in airplane mode so the phone’s contents were not remotely wiped by its owner.

While doing that, Pochert had noticed that the screen’s wallpaper had the words “Westside” and “18th,” both monikers for street gangs in Kennewick, court documents said.

Sgt. Chris Littrell of the Kennewick Police Department provides preliminary details about the investigation into the weekend shooting death of Andrea Nunez, 20, on East Seventh Avenue near South Gum Street.

Pochert connected the phone to Mendoza’s family and discovered that number was being used by the teen to stay in contact with his juvenile probation officer on a prior criminal case.

Phone records also showed that the cell was bought by Agli, according to documents.

Then on Monday, Detective Kirk Nebeker was speaking with a probation officer when Adrian Mendoza checked in.

Mendoza was questioned about why he wasn’t answering the probation officer’s calls on his newest cell number, and the teen said he recently broke the phone and planned to get a new one, documents said.

The teen also reportedly said he would advise his probation officer once he had the new number.

Return from Oregon

After learning that Mendoza had gone to Hermiston hours after the shooting, they got word that he would be returning to the Tri-Cities and a description of the possible car.

Members of Kennewick’s Criminal Apprehension Team saw the car traveling on Highway 14 after entering Washington from Oregon, and stopped it.

All five inside were detained and taken to the Kennewick Police Department. The remaining two eventually were released, while Agli and the Pasco mother and son were taken to jail.

Detectives are asking for the public’s help in finding Sanchez.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts or about the shooting is asked to call 509-628-0333.

They also can remain confidential by contacting Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers at 509-586-8477 or 800-222-8477, or visiting www.tricitiescrimestoppers.org.

Kristin M. Kraemer covers the judicial system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years in Washington and California.
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