SPOKANE -- When two armed men walked into a Pasco garage in 1987 and rounded up the six people inside, "nobody took it serious" until they opened fire, the lone survivor said Wednesday.
Aldo Montes Lamas, now 47, choked up and wiped his eyes with a tissue as he described for jurors the night five men were killed. One of the victims was his cousin.
"I didn't take it serious at all. In my mind I say, 'Who can do this?' I didn't think they would do it," he testified in the murder trial of Vicente Ruiz. "The next thing I knew, they opened fire. The only thing I did was dove underneath the car and stayed there."
Asked who he identified 23 years ago as one of the shooters, Montes Lamas pointed across the courtroom at Ruiz.
Ruiz, surrounded by his three lawyers, leaned back in his chair.
Ruiz was the man who came into Medina's Body Shop with two guns, poked Montes Lamas in the shoulder with one of them and in Spanish told him, "It's over," he said.
After the gunfire and once Ruiz and the second shooter were gone, Montes Lamas said, he got out and drove his car to the Pasco Police Department for help.
"At the time, I had no phone and I had to notify somebody and my first choice, that was it," he said. He didn't yet realize he had been hit in the stomach by a ricocheting bullet.
Montes Lamas is believed to be the prosecution's last witness in its case against Ruiz, who is on trial for the shootings.
Killed on Oct. 13, 1987, were: Misael Barajas, 22; Juan Antonio Lopez Garcia, 20; Eliceo Guzman Lamas, 20; and Rafael Parra Magallon, 22, all of Pasco, and Francisco Venegas Cortez, 21, of Kennewick.
Ruiz, 46, is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with five counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.
This is his third trial, after the first two ended in mistrials. It was moved to Spokane County because of extensive media coverage.
His cousin, Pedro Mendez-Reyna, was convicted in 1994 for his role in the shootings and is locked up for life. He pointed the finger at Ruiz in his plea deal, but when called to testify last week refused to talk and opted to "plead the Fifth."
Ruiz has claimed it is a case of mistaken identity and his lawyers have suggested it was a relative, maybe even a brother, who is similar in appearance.
But Montes Lamas said it was Ruiz.
While being treated at the Pasco hospital that night in October 1987, he told then-Detective Henry Montelongo that he knew the people by a Spanish nickname. Montelongo returned later to his hospital room with a photo montage of six Hispanic men and Montes Lamas said he picked Ruiz's picture out of the group.
He also said when shown a second lineup, he selected Mendez-Reyna's picture as the rifle-toting man who was with Ruiz. He told jurors he didn't know him but had seen him before.
Deputy Prosecutor Frank Jenny tried to clear up some confusion for jurors by asking Montes Lamas to give his birth name.
He acknowledged that he has used other names in the past. He has been known as Aldo Montes and Jesse Rocio -- the two names commonly referenced in this case.
Asked why in 1987 he was using the Rocio name, he said, "To tell you the truth, it doesn't make any sense. Probably because I was trying to get a license with the name. That was the only purpose."
About 35 minutes later when it was Peter Connick's turn to question, he started out with, "It's Mr. Lamas today, is that correct?"
Montes Lamas told him he uses both last names, which led Connick to ask what is his name. When told "Aldo Montes Lamas," Connick said, "That's what it is today?"
Montes Lamas responded: "It's always been that."
A minute later Connick asked if he has used different names "when talking to the courts." Deputy Prosecutor Brian Hultgrenn immediately called for a sidebar without the jury in the courtroom.
Jenny and Hultgrenn said the defense was trying to get in Montes Lamas' criminal history and previously had been told by the court if they wanted to talk about his use of other names, it was not to be mentioned unless first discussed with the judge.
The defense "once again violated a direct court order. I want to be clear on that," said Hultgrenn, who asked that Connick again be found in contempt of court.
Connick argued that Montes Lamas' claims he was using the name Jesse Rocio just to get a license "is a total fraud. That's not true. He has used the false name repeatedly, from 1987 all throughout the investigation of this case and to authorities and in any criminal action he's been involved in."
Judge Cameron Mitchell reminded the defense it had talked about this issue earlier and had been told if it wanted to address false names in other criminal proceedings, it needed to be brought up outside the presence of the jury.
Mitchell took the lunch hour to review his notes, then returned to inform the defense lawyers that on Nov. 30 they agreed to his order that there would be no mention of Montes Lamas' alias and his criminal convictions before the jury. Mitchell had a two-page transcript of that hearing passed out to the attorneys.
"The court's orders are not being adhered to. It's been an ongoing issue throughout this trial," said Mitchell. "... I don't find it persuasive that parties had not known that the court had made that ruling."
He imposed a $200 sanction.
Connick was fined $100 earlier in the trial for asking a witness about evidence that the judge previously ruled couldn't be used in trial.
However, Mitchell did find that because prosecutors had asked Montes Lamas if he went by any other names and why, it opened the door for the defense to ask if there were any other reasons.
When Montes Lamas was back on the stand, Connick followed up with him on his false names. The witness said his only purpose for getting a license as Jesse Rocio was "to drive a car, not to commit any crimes."
Connick also questioned his use of those false names during an arrest in Shoshone County, Idaho, prosecution in federal court in Texas and meetings with immigration officials regarding deportation. He asked if Montes Lamas had done that to protect himself and avoid criminal punishment.
"I don't see how I can avoid to be prosecuted in a case when I already be in a jail and am going through the due process of the court," said Montes Lamas, who currently is incarcerated in an unrelated case.
He denied that the shooting in 1987 was drug related or that Medina's Body Shop was really used to work on cars used to transport drugs.
The shop was owned by his brother Clifford Medina, whose real name is Luis Montes Lamas. Medina now lives in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the two men haven't talked in eight years.
Aldo Montes Lamas said in 1987 he was 24 and living in Pasco with friend Barajas and cousin Lamas, both victims in the shooting. His cousin's girlfriend also lived with them. Montes Lamas said he was doing "mechanic and auto body work" at his brother's shop.
That October evening back at the shop, he was sanding the right front fender on a 1969 Cougar. Magallon dropped by with an invitation for his sister's upcoming wedding. Barajas and Lamas were sweeping up the paint room.
At some point, Ruiz and the other man later identified as Mendez-Reyna walked into the shop, but Montes Lamas said he didn't pay them much attention because he "had no relationship with them." The men then left.
A short time later, Montes Lamas said he was poked with a gun and turned to find Ruiz. Barajas and Lamas were ordered into the shop's main bay, and they were told to close the garage door, he recalled in between tears.
Montes Lamas detailed the two guns he said Ruiz was holding. "I could see the barrel of the gun, I could see the bullets, and they're pretty big size," he testified, saying Ruiz had a .357 in his right hand. "... I was able to see the gun with a short barrel and I could see the bullets in it."
When asked if he saw Ruiz's gun being fired, he said, "I'm not sure who fired the first shot but I know they were fired there."
He said the two men drove away in a Mazda RX-7, and once they were gone, he went to get police.
Jurors are on recess until Friday afternoon, when the defense is expected to start its case. The attorneys will spend today arguing some legal issues before the court, including a defense motion for a mistrial for allowing questioning of Mendez-Reyna, thus implying guilt, and a motion to dismiss the case for destruction of evidence.