Suspects in Kennewick murder knew victim was pregnant. Police say they attacked anyway

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.

When the two teens began following 20-year-old Andrea Nuñez and her boyfriend just before dawn last Sunday, they knew she was five months pregnant.

They planned to attack them anyway, according to court documents filed Friday.

That’s what Marin Jesus Rivera Jr., 17, reportedly told Kennewick detectives when they caught up with him on May 7 to question him about the shooting that killed Nuñez and her unborn baby.

Prosecutors have charged Rivera with second-degree murder for his part in the deadly confrontation that ended with Nuñez being fatally wounded on the 700 block of Seventh Avenue in Kennewick. An aggravating circumstance was added to the charge because Nunez was nearly five months pregnant when she died.

Juvenile Court Commissioner Pamela Peterson conducts a preliminary hearing for 17-year-old Marin J. Rivera Jr., the second suspect arrested for the shooting death of Andrea Nunez. Editor's note: suspects can't be shown in juvenile court.

While Rivera is being held in the Benton-Franklin Juvenile Detention Center in lieu of $500,000 bail, he is facing the charges in adult court because he is 17 and the seriousness of the charge.

Adrian Mendoza, 17, is accused of shooting Nunez and is charged with first-degree murder.

The charges come as family members plan to remember Nuñez on Saturday. They are planning to have mass at St. Patrick’s Church at 11 a.m., with a public viewing at Bruce Lee Chapel starting at 2 p.m., with her burial on Sunday.

Janet Nunez, center, cries as she holds some balloons while surrounded Wednesday by friends and family at a memorial ceremony for her daughter Andrea who was shot and killed Sunday in Kennewick. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

Planned the attack

It’s still not clear how Mendoza and Rivera knew where to find Nuñez and her boyfriend, Joseph Ayala, as they walked along Seventh Avenue. But Rivera knew Mendoza was armed, according to court documents.

A home security camera caught Mendoza, dressed in a long shirt with the number 18 stitched onto it — a symbol for the 18th Street gang — and Rivera walking on the same dark street behind them.

As they approach the couple, they’re joined by three other people, the video shows.

According to court records, Rivera described the moments before the shooting, indicating he heard someone say, “Let’s get that fool,” and Mendoza yell, “Where are they at?” “What’s up?” and “C’mon, let’s go.”

Then Mendoza yelled “18th Street tokers” and “Westside.”

Nuñez replied by yelling “Southside,” and Mendoza allegedly opened fire.

A bullet hit Nuñez, killing her and her unborn child.

The video shows Mendoza with a gun in his hand and Rivera running away, while others race to an apartment on the 700 block of Fir Street.

Police searched an apartment in the days following the shooting, and it’s unclear if they seized anything.

Son and mother arrested

It didn’t take long for police to identify Mendoza, because he dropped a cellphone in the street.

Mendoza had gone to Hermiston after the shooting, but he was arrested when he returned to Washington.

His mother, Maria Rachel Mendoza, 36, also was arrested for rendering criminal assistance, but she’s since been released without charges. Prosecutors said Kennewick police have decided to continue to investigate her possible involvement.

Police and prosecutors also acknowledged the priority of finishing the investigations of Mendoza, Rivera and others.

Police are still looking for Ezekiel Sanchez, 22, in connection with the shooting, but officers have not said how he is connected.

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Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.
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.