Pasco police caught up with a Burbank man 24 years after he allegedly killed a father asleep on an apartment balcony.
Investigators have been looking for Ezequiel Romero, 40, since first-degree murder charges were filed against him in 2000.
Romero was 15 when police say he joined three other teen gang members in opening fire at the apartment in July 1995. Their intended target was the victim’s 18-year-old son, was wounded in the gunfire.
Soon after, Romero reportedly fled to Mexico, prosecutors said.
He first resurfaced earlier this year when he contacted a Richland lawyer to quash a warrant in Franklin County on an unrelated 1995 weapons charge from when he was a teen.
Romero — who also has used the name Raul for his first name — was still in Mexico at the time.
Then on Oct. 17, Larry Overcast, the Utah port director with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, alerted Pasco officials that Romero bought a ticket for a flight from Guadalajara to Salt Lake City.
Overcast and Pasco police Sgt. Bill Parramore worked together to confirm it was the same person, identifying him by a tattoo on his back, according to court records.
When police arrived to arrest him, Romero showed them the paperwork quashing the juvenile warrant.
Pasco detectives questioned him about his involvement in the deadly shooting, and Romero “admitted he was there when the shooting happened, armed with a gun,” according to court documents
He was brought back to Franklin County and booked into the jail on the warrant for murder and attempted murder shortly before 3 p.m. Wednesday.
He appeared briefly in Franklin County Superior Court on Thursday afternoon.
Deputy Prosecutor Daniel Stovern asked for $1 million bail, saying the $250,000 on the 2000 warrant was not enough to guarantee Romero would stay in the country.
“A lot has changed in the last 19 years, besides inflation. We now have information that Mr. Romero spent the better part of a decade outside of the country avoiding being brought to court for the very matter,” he said.
Defense attorney Scott Johnson, who has been hired by Romero, disputed the statement that his client has been hiding from facing this charge.
“There were other reasons, which we will deal with later,” he said.
Court Commissioner Darin Campbell set his bail at $1 million.
Romero was part of a carload of gang members who went hunting for a rival’s apartment at the end of a weeklong string of shootings, according to investigators at the time.
They spotted their target, Michael Elizondo, standing at the sliding glass door of a second-floor apartment on Agate Street.
While one person stood guard, Romero joined three others in unloading a hail of bullets at the balcony, according to court documents.
Elizondo, who was 18 at the time, had already been the target of two other shootings in the days leading up to the July 5 attack.
While Michael Elizondo was hit once in the butt, his father, Andres Elizondo, 53, was killed as he slept on the balcony, said court documents.
Neighbors at the time told the Tri-City Herald that Andres Elizondo was a hard-working farm laborer who brought them produce. They said he liked to sleep on the balcony during the summer heat and was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The neighboring apartment also was hit by bullets, but no one was hurt.
Pasco police detectives found 32 spent shell casings at the scene, according to Herald stories at the time.
Four other people — including two 15-year-olds and a 16-year-old — were arrested, convicted and served time.