WALLA WALLA — A man facing murder and assault charges related to the fatal shooting of a rival gang member pleaded guilty today to a reduced charge.
Twenty-year-old Andres Solis, who did not fire any shots the day of the killing, pleaded guilty to one count of felony riot. In exchange for the plea, charges of second-degree murder and three counts of first-degree assault were dismissed.
Solis will remain free on bail pending sentencing by Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge John Lohrmann.
In an interview after Solis’s plea, Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle said defense attorneys had made very effective arguments in pretrial work showing potential defects in the murder and assault cases.
Nagle said conviction on those charges hinged on being able to prove Solis knew or would have been expected to know fellow gang member Benito Gomez was armed with a deadly weapon before the confrontation in 2011 in which Gomez shot Julio Cesar Martinez to death.
Testimony from Gomez’s trial indicated Solis’s case could go either way, Nagle said.
Solis, who has no prior criminal record, could benefit from a prosecution recommendation for first-time offender status, which will make the standard range for the riot conviction up to 90 days in jail with credit for time served.
In addition, Solis would face two years of community custody, a form of probation, after his release. Nagle said the first-time offender recommendation was made in part to ensure the lengthy probation period, which otherwise would not be available for Solis’s riot conviction.
Solis was charged last September in connection with the murder of Martinez, 20, during a gang fight on May 17, 2011, in the 300 block of Myrtle Street.
During the confrontation, Gomez, 19, shot Martinez twice in the head. Martinez died later that night at Providence St. Mary Medical Center. Two of Martinez’s fellow gang members were also fired at, but were not hit.
After a trial last June, a jury convicted Gomez of second-degree murder for causing Martinez’s death and six counts of first-degree assault for shooting at others in the alley and into an adjacent apartment building. He was later sentenced to nearly 115 years in prison.
Although Solis didn’t fire any shots, he is believed to have been the primary instigator of the confrontation. The murder charge against him accused him of engaging in felony riot when Martinez was mortally wounded. The assault charges stem from shots fired at Martinez and the other two gang members.