Police Hunt Killer Gang Linked to As Many as Five Slayings

Chris Bristol, Yakima Herald-Republic (Washington), Feb. 25

A suspect is behind bars in the execution-style shootings of a 3-year-old Yakima girl and her parents earlier this week, an attack authorities said was only the latest in a string of murders and robberies committed by a violent street gang over the past month.

Identifying members of the gang by face and name but not the name of the gang itself, Yakima police Chief Sam Granato also linked the suspects to a seemingly random road-rage shooting on Lincoln Avenue Wednesday night that left a 21-year-old man dead.

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Following the arrest Wednesday of 23-year-old Jose Luis Sanchez, authorities identified three more members of the gang they were seeking in connection with a drug ripoff Sunday night in the 1400 block of South 18th Avenue that ended in the deaths of 21-year-old Ricky Causor and his daughter, 3-year-old Mya.

The other primary suspect in the ripoff scheme was identified as Mario Gil Mendez, 24, aka Gato. He is still at large.

One of the two men sought as material witnesses in the case turned himself into Yakima police shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday, Lt. Gary Belles said. Belles said later in the evening that he was not sure yet whether detectives would end up holding the 24-year-old man, identified as Carlos Orozco Jr., aka Flaco.

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Granato also linked Wednesday night’s shooting to the gang, saying there was a “strong connection” that an associate of the group played a role. He would not elaborate on the link.

Although details remain sketchy, police said the 10:15 p.m. shooting was precipitated by a traffic altercation between occupants in two cars at the intersection of North Sixth Street and Lincoln Avenue.

When one of the cars stopped for a stop sign, a man exited the other car, described as a maroon four-door Honda sedan, and opened fire on the first car, blowing out the back window and hitting a backseat passenger, 21-year-old Octavio Abundez Jr., in the head.

Abundez was taken to Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center, where he clung to life through the night before succumbing about 12:30 p.m. Thursday. Police said he was not a member of a gang, nor were his friends.

In addition to the two shootings this week, Granato linked the gang to the Jan. 24 armed robbery of a Farmers Insurance office in downtown Yakima and the murder of a 32-year-old Yakima woman whose body was found dumped by the side of the road in the Cowiche area earlier this month.

The victim, Tonya Bonser, had been shot once in the face.

Her mother, Penny Bonser, said she believes her daughter became caught up in a war between two gangs in the city.

In 50 years of living in Yakima, “I’ve never seen it this bad,” Penny Bonser said about the latest streak of violence.

In the last six months, her daughter had started using a potent form of methamphetamine, even though she had held a steady job for the past three years, attended church and was looking to enroll in college.

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