A 20-year-old woman was nearly five months pregnant with a boy when she was shot dead last weekend in an east Kennewick neighborhood.
Two teens have been arrested so far in the gang-related murder investigation, say police.
It would have been the second child for Andrea M. Nuñez, who previously gave her daughter up for adoption.
“This was unfair. She never hurt nobody. ... She didn’t deserve this,” her mother, Janet Nuñez, said Wednesday evening. “I want justice for her ... for my baby girl.”
The family was joined by more than 50 relatives, friends and community members during a balloon release at Seventh Avenue and Gum Street — the spot where the expectant mother was gunned down just before dawn Sunday.
“In memory of my daughter, I want to honor her right now by the release of these balloons,” she said, letting go of a bouquet of yellow balloons.
‘Going to push for life’
Janet Nuñez sobbed as she hugged people steps away from a street-side memorial with flowers, teddy bears, candles, balloons and a picture of Andrea.
She also took time to remember her daughter, and to urge people to stand with her through the lengthy court process for the suspects and not abandon the family once the initial shock and grief have passed.
So far, Adrian Mendoza and Marin J. Rivera Jr., both 17, have been locked up for the murder. A third man is wanted by police.
“I am going to push for life without the possibility of parole because (they) didn’t take one life, (they) took two. She was 4 1/2 months pregnant with a baby boy,” Janet Nuñez told the crowd. “And if you guys are here to support me now, I want you guys to support me while we’re in court, please.”
Andrea was pregnant in 2016 and gave up her daughter for adoption.
Janet Nuñez said if they have any donations left over in their GoFundMe account after funeral expenses, it will go to the girl.
“(Andrea) was very unselfish. I don’t think I could have done that. She gave her daughter a mother and a father because she couldn’t give to her,” said Janet Nuñez.
“Like I said, I’m going to push it so that these people get life,” she added. “They shot her in the back. A bunch of guys shot my daughter in the back.”
Intended to intimidate and harass
Andrea Nuñez had been walking through the dark neighborhood with her boyfriend early Sunday.
Court documents filed in Rivera’s case said the suspects approached her “with the intent to intimidate, harass and assault (her) with a firearm.”
The incident escalated and Nuñez ended up fatally wounded in the torso, said Rivera, who allegedly admitted to police to being involved.
The Kennewick teen was arrested Tuesday during classes at Southridge High School, and Wednesday made his first appearance in Benton County Juvenile Court.
Three days before the slaying, Rivera turned 17.
Court Commissioner Pamela Peterson found probable cause to hold him on suspicion of second-degree murder, and set bail at $500,000.
In addition to the normal court security, four Kennewick police officers and detectives attended Wednesday’s hearing.
The teen yawned at one point when Peterson was talking, and loudly cracked his knuckles and tossed aside a paper that was handed to him.
Second teen in adult court
At the same time as that hearing, Mendoza appeared down the road in Benton County Superior Court on first-degree murder charges.
The case against Mendoza, also 17, was bumped up to adult court automatically because of the severity of the crime and he is over age 16.
His charge was filed before his arrest Monday evening while coming back from Oregon with his mother and three others, documents said.
Like Rivera, he is being held in the Juvenile Detention Center on $500,000 bail. The Pasco teen’s trial is scheduled for June 24.
Prosecutors have until Friday afternoon to file against Rivera or release him from custody. His case also will transfer to adult court if he is charged with Nuñez’s murder.
Police also are still looking for Ezekiel Sanchez, 22, but have not revealed his alleged role in the murder investigation.
Nuñez’s boyfriend told Kennewick police they had been on Seventh Avenue, near Gum, when they heard a man yell “Westside.” Nuñez replied with a shout of “Southside,” according to court documents.
She then was shot and fell to the ground. That was at 4:12 a.m. Sunday.
An autopsy done Wednesday confirmed she was hit once in her upper body, said Benton County Coroner Bill Leach.
Investigators are calling it a gang-related homicide.
Home security cameras show the suspects around the time of the shooting as they seem to follow Nuñez and her boyfriend.
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, and helped bring in tips on the suspects’ identities.
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.