A Pasco man involved in a gang confrontation that led to a shooting at Chiawana Park this summer will spend the next year behind bars.
Victor Farias, 19, entered a modified guilty plea Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court to a felony riot charge and three counts of reckless endangerment, a gross misdemeanor.
Farias entered an Alford plea, which means he denied committing the crime but agreed prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.His attorney, Laurie Magan, told Judge Robert Swisher that her client wanted to take advantage of the plea deal that reduced a second-degree assault charge to the riot charge.
Farias agreed to the deal after "realizing the realities of what he would be facing if this went in front of a jury," Magan said.
Deputy Prosecutor Amy Harris recommended the top-end sentence of a year in jail, saying Farias drove a co-defendant to his house to retrieve a gun before driving to Chiawana Park on Aug. 1.
"More importantly, Mr. Farias chose to go to the park ... to start a gang confrontation in the middle of a heavily populated park," she said.There were at least 300 people in the park before the shooting occurred, and while no bystanders were hit by gunfire, Harris said some are in counseling.
According to police and court documents, Ronnie Lopez was at a barbecue with his co-workers in the west end of the park when he noticed several men walking past him "throwing gang signs." That lasted for about 20 minutes until two of the men approached and pulled up their shirts to reveal pistols.
Lopez, 23, reportedly knew the men to be gang members and told them he didn't want any problems. Then David Reyes came up from behind and jumped Lopez, "took him to the ground and began punching him along with several others," documents said.
Lopez, who has a concealed weapons permit, pulled out his pistol to use in self-defense but there was no bullet in the chamber. After Reyes allegedly fired at him several times, Lopez was able to chamber a round and fire at Reyes, hitting him twice.
Magan acknowledged that it was "only by the grace of God that someone wasn't killed," at the park, but also noted that while her client was part of the group, he never had direct contact with Lopez.
"He was in the very wrong place and the very wrong time," Magan said.
Farias may have been part of the group "mad-dogging" Lopez across the parking lot, but he never went near Lopez, and he turned and ran when the shots were fired because he didn't want to be shot, Magan said.
Farias' twin brother, Hector, also was in court Tuesday, but is expected to be back in three weeks to change his plea. He is charged with second-degree assault and three counts of second-degree reckless endangerment.
Four other co-defendants in the case face trials in January.