MOSES LAKE — A Grant County judge found a pair of brothers from Royal City not guilty in connection with a July 2017 shooting in Moses Lake that left a woman with a gunshot wound to the head.
Jesus Torres, 22, and Jonathan Torres, 20, from Royal City, were found not guilty of assault and drive-by shooting charges by Judge John Antosz following a bench trial. The state argued Jesus Torres fired a weapon at a vehicle with three occupants following a scuffle at Apex Cannabis in Moses Lake on July 28, 2017. Prosecutors claimed Jonathan Torres was the driver of the vehicle his brother was firing out of.
Jesus Torres was involved in a brief altercation with a rival gang member inside of Apex shortly before the shooting. Witness testimony during trial indicated the rival gang member said something to Jesus relating to gang territory/affiliation and the man pushed and punched him.
“Jesus Torres did not strike back, only attempting to protect himself from the attack,” Antosz wrote.
The two men were tossed from the store by staff and, the state contends, the rival gang member hopped into a vehicle with two females and were followed by the Torres brothers in a Lexus. The shooting, which the female driver of the victim vehicle survived, occurred a few minutes later near the Fourth Avenue/Holly Street intersection. The Torres brothers were taken into custody a couple of hours later in Royal City.
In Antosz’ ruling he states the biggest issues surrounding the case involve the identity of the driver and the shooter in the Lexus. Testimony from police officers who are familiar with the Lexus indicate Jonathan was the regular driver of the vehicle, the only problem being that neither eyewitness testimony nor video was offered by the state during trial to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Jonathan was driving the car during the incident in question.
Antosz notes Apex Cannabis has two cameras on the outside of their building that recorded the Lexus. Moses Lake Police downloaded the videos onto a digital server, but they later “disappeared.” MLPD Sgt. Brian Jones testified to watching the video before it disappeared and said a man in a dark shirt was driving the Lexus.
“Sergeant Jones testified when Jonathan was arrested at his residence in Royal City later than night, he thought to himself that (the shirt Jonathan was wearing) was the shirt of the driver he saw on the video,” Antosz wrote.
“No witnesses testified they saw Jonathan Torres in the Lexus on July 28, 2018, before, during or after the shooting,” the judge later added.
When it comes to Jesus, Antosz points out the shirt he can be seen wearing inside of Apex was different than the shirt he had on when he was arrested. Just as with his brother, Antosz said there was no evidence offered by the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Jesus was the shooter.
The judge also doubted an argument from the state during the trial relating to the bullet strike ratio in the shooting. The state argued the bullet strike ratio was 75 percent, which Antosz wrote “demonstrates highly accurate shooting,” and because Jonathan and Jesus are both right handed, the gun had to have been fired by Jesus with his right hand out of the passenger side of the Lexus. Antosz says the theory “disregards or discounts” the possibility of another person being in the vehicle or “lucky shooting by the driver.”
“Jesus Torres was the victim of an assault. He got in the front passenger seat of the Lexus. Witnesses could not determine if anyone was seated in the back of the car. The total number of occupants is unknown. No witness identified Jesus Torres as the shooter. The gun was not found,” Antosz said.
“There is no evidence that Jesus Torres was encouraged or assisted a shooter to establish liability. To assume that he did would be to cross over the line from a reasonable inference to speculation.”
The judge also notes that in a letter written by Jesus to his sister from the Grant County Jail he lists the names of the three occupants of the victim vehicle, along with their addresses, dates of birth and phone numbers. The state argued the letter indicates a request to tamper with witnesses, while the defense argued it “merely shows concern about the case.”