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Seven gang members convicted in 2011 Kent car show shooting
Seven gang members connected with a July 2011 shootout at a Kent car show at a West Hill strip mall have been convicted on a variety of charges.
The last two of the defendants recently pleaded guilty, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. Twelve people were injured during the shootout at the La Plaza strip mall, 23311 Pacific Highway S.
About 250 people attended the lowrider car show. Another person was injured later that night in a retaliatory shooting at a Kent East Hill apartment. Of the 13 victims, seven were gang members, according to Kent Police. None of the injuries were life threatening.
The convicted men were identified as members of the Playboy-Surenos street gang. Kent Police detectives led the effort, but nearly a dozen police agencies contributed to the investigation. Detectives, despite facing a chaotic crime scene and uncooperative witnesses, were able to build a solid case, according to prosecutors.
Detectives used firearm tool mark evidence, text messaging records, fingerprints, social media, cellphone tracking technology, jail phone call recordings and video surveillance to build the case against the seven men.
“This startling shootout in broad daylight at a shopping mall coalesced law enforcement and the community in South King County to take a stand against gang violence,” said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg in a prepared statement.
The car show turned violent after members of a rap band at the event encouraged the crowd to show their gang signs, according to Kent Police. Members started to show their signs and that led to verbal arguments, fights and then the shootings.
Isai Hernandez and James Lopez pleaded guilty last week for their involvement in the shooting. Hernandez pled guilty to a charge of drive-by shooting and Lopez pled to a charge of first-degree rendering criminal assistance. Six men pleaded guilty and one was convicted at trial.
The defendants are from SeaTac, Seattle, Federal Way and Auburn. Kent Police made most of the arrests in September 2011.
A summary of the charges:
• Nicolas Moreno, 24, pled guilty to one count first-degree assault with a deadly weapon enhancement. Prosecutors will recommend a total of 147 months, which includes 24 months on the deadly weapon enhancement. Sentencing is set for Aug. 22 before King County Superior Court Judge Bill Bowman.
• Ignacio Vasquez-Trevino, 22, pled guilty to first-degree assault with a deadly weapon enhancement and was sentenced to 124 months.
• Martin McSmith, 24, pled guilty to first-degree assault with a deadly weapon enhancement and was sentenced to 124 months.
• Isai Hernandez, 21, pled guilty to a charge of drive-by shooting, which carries a sentence range of 21 to 27 months. Sentencing is on Aug. 18. The defendant would likely get credit for time served, but would still face a mandatory 18 months of community custody.
• James Lopez, 20, pled guilty to first-degree rendering criminal assistance and faces a sentence range of 6 to 12 months. Sentencing is set for Sept. 3.
• Shea Auble, 24, pled guilty last year to first-degree rendering criminal assistance. He was sentenced for both the rendering criminal assistance, as well as some unrelated charges, and received a 41-month sentence.
• Patrick Auble, 32, brother of Shea Auble, was convicted by a jury of first-degree rendering criminal assistance and was sentenced to one year in jail (work release). He hid one of the vehicles that carried shooters away from the scene and threatened to destroy evidence.
Kent detectives Phil Johnson and Heather Vance led the investigation. Prosecutors said Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas was instrumental in the response to solve the shootings and in the formation of the South King County Gang Violence Initiative, which helped investigate the case.