Special Reports

Shop owner missed shootings by an hour

Clifford Medina missed being part of the massacre in his auto body shop by an hour.

Two men entered and murdered five of Medina's friends about 7 p.m. Tuesday, an hour after he and his girlfriend, Ana Torres, 33, stopped by his east Pasco garage but did not go in, he said.

Instead, the couple say they drove to a farm camp near Fishhook Park along the Snake River to buy a pickup.

They returned at 7:30 to 8 p.m.

"I don't think I'm going to open again,"' he said Wednesday.

The couple lived in the office part of the body shop. Men often worked at the shop as late as 10 p.m. said Medina. The six who were gunned down Tuesday night were sanding and preparing a car to be painted.

Medina, 22, said be doesn't know the reason for the shooting.

Medina said he makes his living from the money others pay to work on cars in the shop. The usual rate for someone doing extensive work on a car is $100, he said.

The Medina Body Shop was a workplace for Hispanics who have no other place to repair cars, said Medina. He said four of the men who were shot lived in the same house - one without electricity.

Medina said he knew each of the six men who were shot at least four or five years.

Torres, who is studying to be a cosmetologist at Clare's Beauty College in Pasco, said one of the dead men, Eliceo Guzman Lamas, was Medina's cousin.

The lone survivor, Jesse Salas Rocio, 20, is Medina's half-brother, and moved to the Tri-Cities with him from Fresno, Calif., about five years ago, Medina said.

Medina has been out of jail two months after being convicted in Franklin County Superior Court of assault. He pleaded guilty March 31 to second-degree assault for threatening a woman with a handgun. Medina was sentenced to six months in jail, with credit for 34 days served. He had originally been charged with two counts of second-degree assault. Police alleged that Torres was taking a male friend, Margarito Valle, to look at an apartment. Medina allegedly found the two near the building, pointed a handgun at them and walked Valle down the roadway at gunpoint while Torres left and called police.

Torres expressed concern about the number of guns owned by Hispanics and their use of them.

"When one (Hispanic) looks at another the wrong way, they want to kill," she said. "The Mexicans think like that."

Torres said she has lived in the Tri-Cities 21 years and knows most of the Hispanic people here.

"The people who did the shooting, I saw them nay times in the street," she said. However, the two never frequented the shop, she said.

The couple say they saw one of the men police have said is a suspected gunman - Vicente Mendez Ruiz, 19 - at a Pasco convenience store Tuesday afternoon.

The body shop served as a hangout for Hispanic men, said Torres.

At times, she said, "I saw 50 men would go in there and talk, not always working. They don't work a lot. When they really need the money, then they work."

Medina bought the shop two months ago from Myron Liniger of Pasco, after Medina got out of jail. He pays $450 a month rent, his landlord said.

Matt Landsman, who runs a welding warehouse at neighboring OxArc Inc., said he drove past the shop after be got off work at 6 p.m. Tuesday. He said he recognized Medina and "just the usual group" of about a half-dozen men, "just sitting there, chit-chatting."