Two men with automatic weapons burst into a Pasco auto body shop and kill five on October 13, 1987.

  • By Jim Kershner
  • Posted 5/04/2008
  • Essay 8607

On October 13, 1987, two gunmen walk into an auto body shop on Pasco's east side and open fire with automatic weapons. The six men in the shop dive for cover but only one escapes death. All of the victims are Hispanic  and authorities suspect that the gunmen fled to Mexico. One suspect will be  arrested after six years on the run and will be sentenced to life without parole. A second suspect will be extradited from Mexico in 2007 after hiding out for 20 years and is scheduled to go on trial in 2008. The massacre results in a new resolve to combat crime in Pasco, which will bolster its police force and subsequently reduce its crime rate.

Only One Survives

Two men opened the door of Medina's Body Shop on Pasco's east side on October 13, 1987, looked around and went back outside. Moments later they burst back through the door and sprayed the shop with bullets from automatic weapons. Of the six men working in the shop, five were killed. The sixth, a 20-year-old from Pasco, dived under a car and was hit in the side by a ricochet. The gunmen left without checking under the car. The survivor drove to the police station for help.

All of the victims were between the ages 20 and 22 and all were part of Pasco's growing Hispanic community. At first, Pasco police speculated that the shooting was drug-related. There was talk in the community of a connection with a so-called "Mexican Mafia." Yet the survivor said he no idea what the shooters' motive could have been. He told reporters that he recognized the men, who were also Hispanic, and they had once engaged in "a general argument, but didn't have a real problem with them" ("Gunmen"). Police raided an apartment of one of the suspect's relatives, but neither suspect was anywhere to be found. They were thought to have fled to Mexico.

Shock and Response

The massacre shocked Pasco, which had already been concerned about a high crime rate. A month later, voters passed a levy that boosted the size of the Pasco police force. The police chief said that Hispanic support for police grew after the murders.

A year later, Pasco police were still on the hunt. They said they were working with Mexican authorities in hopes of apprehending the two men. Yet it wasn't until 1993 that one of the suspects was arrested in Texas. Pedro Mendez-Reyna, then 31, had fled to his hometown in Mexico but was arrested after he crossed into Texas and was tracked down by authorities. He pled guilty to five counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of attempted first degree murder and was subsequently sentenced to life in prison without parole. He said the incident stemmed from an argument in a Pasco restaurant earlier on the day of the shooting.

Then, in June 2007, Mendez-Reyna's cousin, Vicente Ruiz, was extradited from Mexico after 20 years on the lam. As of 2008, he was awaiting trial in Pasco on five counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.

When the sole survivor learned of Ruiz's arrest, he is reported to have said, "It's about time" ("Suspect").

Pasco's Hispanic population has exploded in the ensuing decades, and by 2000 the city was 56 percent Hispanic. As of 2006, its crime rate had dropped well below the national average.

Sources: Associated Press, "Gunmen Kill 5 in Pasco, Wash.," The New York Times, October 15, 1987; Associated Press, "Two Gunmen Kill Five, Wound One," Spokesman-Review, October 14, 1987; Associated Press, "A Year After Body Shop Massacre, Pasco Struggling to Repair Image," Spokesman-Review, October 14, 1988; "Former Fugitive Sentenced in Slayings of 5 Men in Pasco," The Seattle Times, May 9, 1994; Associated Press, "Suspect in 'Body Shop Slayings' Back in Tri-Cities After 20 Years," Wenatchee World, June 23, 2007;  Kristin M. Kraemer, "Defense Investigator Removed from 1987 Auto Body Shop Slayings Case," Tri-City Herald, March 26, 2008.

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