Hung jury in firefighter assault case

Nine months and one three-day trial later and there’s still no resolution to the case in which a firefighter drew a gun during a fight with another firefighter on a snowy night in McCleary. After more than three hours of deliberation Thursday, a jury couldn’t agree on a verdict on Robert Enriquez’s second-degree assault charge.

The hung verdict will lead to a new trial in the complicated case, likely within 90 days, deputy prosecutor Kraig Newman said.

Defense attorney John Henry Brown said the result wasn’t what they were looking for but it’s still positive. Eight of 12 jurors voted that Enriquez was not guilty.

“Of course we’re sad we didn’t win the not guilty verdict, but we’re not displeased with this resolution,” Brown said “And most prosecutors in these circumstances would not refile, and we’re certainly hoping that Mr. Newman won’t.”

The case stems from an incident the night of Jan. 19, during a heavy snowstorm when power went out all over the county. Many of the facts were agreed upon by both sides. Enriquez and Jim Dunn, both volunteer firefighters with the McCleary Fire Department, met at Beerbower Park to discuss a disagreement. When Enriquez approached with a large Maglite flashlight, Dunn found some motion Enriquez made threatening and grabbed the wrist of the hand holding the light, then the other wrist, and the pair tumbled to their knees in the snow.

Brown argued Dunn’s reaction was unreasonable, and that Enriquez only made a small shoulder motion and was only carrying the flashlight because the power was out. Newman said Enriquez made an intentionally threatening motion, and Dunn testified the flashlight was off.

Dunn testified that Enriquez had told him on multiple occasions that he felt intimidated by Dunn, which Enriquez said related to past aggressive behavior by Dunn, including a text message to Enriquez’s girlfriend in which Dunn said he couldn’t promise he wouldn’t put his fist through Enriquez’s face. Enriquez girlfriend was Melissa Dunn, Jim Dunn’s ex-wife with whom Jim Dunn had an on-again-off-again relationship and an 8-year-old daughter.

The night of the altercation, Dunn sent an email to Melissa Dunn about an earlier incident, an agreement to meet with Enriquez to hash out their differences. In the months after Enriquez and Melissa Dunn started dating, the formerly close friendship between Enriquez and Dunn became strained. Melissa Dunn insisted the two men not meet at Dunn’s home because she said he kept guns in the house. Enriquez also believed Dunn kept a gun in his car, although Dunn said he had not in more than a decade.

The motions made by Enriquez with the flashlight were designed to goad Dunn into making the first contact that night so he would get in legal trouble, Newman argued.

“They were intentional,” Newman said in his closing argument. “They were inspired to get Jim Dunn to react so he could pull his gun out and play the big man. … He wanted Jim Dunn to feel as small as he did.”

Defense co-counsel Emma Scanlan said no evidence was presented about any bad feelings from Enriquez toward Dunn.

Enriquez brought Melissa Dunn’s 16-year-old son and their 14-year-old neighbor with him that night, he testified, so he could take them to the store for snacks afterward. The state argued they were there to witness the altercation.

“Why is he taking kids to the park to meet a guy he knows has a gun when the power is out?” Newman asked jurors, arguing no stores were likely to be open during that outage.

“Nobody brings two kids to witness an assault,” Scanlan said in her closing.

When Dunn was on top of Enriquez in the snow, the 16-year-old left the car and told Dunn to get off Enriquez, which he did.

Enriquez first slid his gun out from its holster and handed it to the teen, he testified in order to keep it away from Dunn. Enriquez has a concealed pistol license, and customarily carried the 9 mm pistol because of his work in the Hilltop neighborhood for the Tacoma Fire Department.

When Enriquez was on his feet, he got the gun back from the teen.

Enriquez testified Dunn advanced on him despite repeated orders to stop. He said he felt threatened — Dunn is 6-feet-4 and 280 lbs. to Enriquez’s 5-feet-7, 155 lbs. He added that he also worried Dunn would get a gun from his car, or that he would leave before the police arrived.

Dunn testified he was trying to get to his car to leave, but Enriquez placed himself in Dunn’s path. The diagram of the scene created based on the responding officers’ accounts puts Enriquez between Dunn and his vehicle. Enriquez pointed his gun at Dunn.

“That’s what this case is about. That’s the unreasonable act,” Newman told jurors. “By every account, Mr. Dunn was not trying to injure Mr. Enriquez, he was trying to control him.

Enriquez told the teen to call 911 and tell them he was making a citizen’s arrest. When the gun was examined later, a round was in the chamber.

“Bob is the one that wanted the police to come. Bob is the one that wanted to be rescued. Not Jim,” Scanlan said.

Nicholas Bird, director of Public Works for McCleary, had already notified police. As he drove past the park after coordinating with crews on restoring power, he saw men on the ground and the gun shine in the headlights from Enriquez’s car.

Officer Randy Bunch was on duty in McCleary that night. He waited for backup from Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Deputy Shane Smith and went to the park.

Smith testified he was a few seconds behind Bunch — he couldn’t tell what he was parking on because of the deep snow. Bunch testified he ran onto the scene with his rifle, saw Enriquez pointing the gun and ordered both men to the ground.

The defense argued that the whole case against Enriquez is flawed because Bunch did not disclose that he had had a romantic relationship with Enriquez’s estranged wife. Enriquez and his wife were in the process of a bitter divorce, filed in August 2011.

She testified that she and Bunch only dated for about a month, and the last time they were together was early January. The “formal conversation” ending their relationship came after the Jan. 19 incident, however.

After the relationship came to light, Bunch was removed from the investigation, although McCleary Police Chief George Crumb testified Bunch’s investigation was sound.

Brown insinuated during his questioning that Enriquez’s arrest was good for Bunch’s relationship, which Bunch emphatically denied.

“Bunch made a major mistake in his life, but how does that affect this case?” Newman asked jurors. He said jurors heard from witnesses themselves, and the only point Smith didn’t witness and confirm was Enriquez pointing the gun at Dunn, which Enriquez acknowledged he had done.

Scanlan emphasized to the jury that any reasonable doubt demanded a not guilty vote, and argued the prosecution had not presented enough evidence to remove all doubt.

After an afternoon of deliberation, apparently only four jurors were convinced. A new trial has not yet been scheduled.