A 16-year-old former River Ridge High School student stood before a judge Tuesday to learn that he will turn 30 in prison.
The 16-year-old, Victor Torres, led a "hunt" on a rainy day in January that culminated in the drive-by shooting of a 15-year-old boy as he walked home from school on Samurai Drive.
Torres will be incarcerated for the next 15 years, including about 13 years in an adult prison, according to a judge's sentence in Thurston County Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon.
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Erik Price handed down the 15-year sentence for Torres Tuesday immediately after Torres pleaded guilty to first-degree assault while armed with a deadly weapon, second-degree assault and third-degree assault for his role in the drive-by shooting that left the 15-year-old with a gunshot wound to his thigh.
Torres was tried as an adult despite his age. Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim said his office charged Torres as an adult because he and his codefendant "opened fire in broad daylight on three people." Five shots were fired from the vehicle before it sped away.
While Torres did not fire the shots during the drive-by, he is the one who escalated a dispute with the 15-year-old victim, and allegedly enlisted a friend to help him resolve it with a firearm, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Wayne Graham said.
Tunheim said that the 15-year-old shooting victim, and the two bystanders he was walking with that day, are lucky they are not dead. The two bystanders who were walking with the 15-year-old shooting victim had nothing to do with the dispute that led to the shooting, Tunheim added.
Judge Price wore a pained expression on his face as he adopted the 15-year sentencing recommendation.
"It is sad for the court to sit here today with a man as young as you are before it," Price told Torres. Price told Torres that he will still be a young man when he gets out of prison, and he said he hopes that Torres chooses to lead a better life once he is released from custody.
"I hope Mr. Torres, that this will be the end of a chapter and you will come out of this better for it," Price added.
Torres will remain in custody at the Thurston County Juvenile Jail until he is 18, at which time he will be transferred to the custody of the state Department of Corrections, for an intake process that will ultimately place him in a state prison for the remainder of his sentence, Graham said.
A large number of Torres' family members packed Price's courtroom Tuesday and several family members, including Torres' mother, wept as Price adopted the sentencing recommendation. The 15-year recommendation had earlier been agreed upon by Graham and Torres' defense attorney, Tom Keehan.
Torres was driving the getaway vehicle during the Jan. 24 drive-by shooting of the 15-year-old boy as he walked home from school. Torres' codefendant, Terrell Fox, 18, is accused of firing the .22-caliber handgun five times during the drive-by shooting, according to court papers. Fox is charged with attempted murder, two counts of first-degree assault while armed with a deadly weapon and a count of drive-by shooting while armed with a deadly weapon in connection with the case.
Fox's trial is scheduled for later this year.
As part of Torres' plea deal that gave him a 15-year sentence Tuesday, he must testify truthfully in Fox's trial.
The dispute that resulted in the 15-year-old being shot in the thigh began with a schoolyard "beef" between Torres and the 15-year-old, Graham said. The two had fought several times, including one brawl in which Torres believed the 15-year-old got the better of him, Graham said. Thurston County Sheriff's detectives obtained a cell phone video of one of the brawls. "It just kept escalating," Graham said. Torres subsequently convinced Fox to help him introduce a firearm into the mix, according to Graham.
"They went hunting for the victim and they found him," Graham said.
The shooting victim has since recovered from the injury to his thigh. Detectives tracked down the suspects because they knew of the preexisting beef between the parties, Graham said. Torres was arrested at a Queets Drive residence one day after the shooting. Fox was arrested a day after the shooting at River Ridge, where he was a student.
The .22-caliber pistol believed to have been used in the shooting was later recovered at a residence in the Rainier Vista Mobile Home Park.
Torres was known to law enforcement at the time of the January shooting and had had prior cases in juvenile court, Graham said.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 firstname.lastname@example.org