YAKIMA, Wash. — A gang member who did hard time for a shooting at the east Yakima Wal-Mart is being held on $200,000 bail following his third arrest in a year for possession of a firearm.
Rigoberto E. Gonzalez, a 23-year-old La Raza Norteño who goes by the street name “Crazy Thug,” was arrested Thursday after a traffic stop on North First Street led to the discovery of an AK-47 assault rifle with a 30-round magazine in his car.
It was his third arrest in almost exactly a year on a gun charge.
“How many times do we have to arrest this guy before he stays off the street?” said Capt. Rod Light, spokesman for the Yakima Police Department. “Let’s hope the third time’s the charm.”
Gonzalez first made headlines in June 2005 after he was arrested in connection with a gang shooting near the front entrance of Wal-Mart.
Initially he was charged as an accessory, but after investigators reviewed security footage of the shooting, Gonzalez was charged as the shooter and sentenced to 75 months in prison, or just over six years, for first-degree assault.
State corrections records show he was released in August 2011, and by November he was linked to a gang-related shooting, according to YPD records.
On Jan. 13, 2012, he was arrested on a gun charge after a traffic stop on Fruitvale Boulevard near the 7-Eleven on 16th Avenue. A loaded .380 semiautomatic pistol was found under the front passenger seat, leading to a charge of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.
Court records show Gonzalez was initially held on $100,000 bail. After 4 1/2 months in jail, he was released on reduced bond of $75,000 posted by Jail Sucks Bail Bonds.
With that case still pending, he was picked up again in December on a firearms charge. Bail was set at $20,000.
In that case, Gonzalez was picked up in connection with a Dec. 14 raid at a restaurant on Ranchrite Road near Nob Hill Boulevard and First Street that resulted in the arrest of several documented Norteños.
Among them was Gonzalez, who was allegedly found hiding in a storeroom in the basement. Officers said they found a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol under a nearby mop bucket, along with a plastic baggie containing methamphetamine.
Prosecutors filed another gun charge as well as a drug dealing charge.
On Monday, Jail Sucks Bail Bonds came through with a bond and Gonzalez was released. That led to Thursday’s incident.
In the latest case, Officer Tarin Miller came into contact with Gonzalez as part of a traffic stop near the am/pm minimart on North First Street.
Miller, a former member of the Yakima police gang unit who recognized Gonzalez as a high-ranking gang member, said he was especially nervous and that she had to warn him repeatedly to stop putting his hands in his pockets.
During the contact, Miller spotted what she described as the handle of a firearm sticking out from underneath some clothing on the floor of the back seat. A search warrant was obtained, leading to the seizure of the rifle, which Miller described as an “AK-47 style assault rifle.”
Light, the police spokesman, said Friday he had seen the gun, which he described as a semiautomatic version of the Russian assault rifle.
How Gonzalez could get released twice on separate gun charges with his record troubled Light.
“It’s obvious the guy’s an absolute villain and is extremely dangerous. He’s proven that in the past,” he said of Gonzalez. “Let’s hope this time it sticks.”
Deputy prosecutor Troy Clements conceded mistakes were made in the case, particularly with regard to his second arrest, but he also said there was plenty of blame to go around, including for Yakima police.
He said there was no record of why Gonzalez’s bail after his arrest in December was so low, noting the $20,000 amount was set by a judge over a weekend without full benefit of police reports and prosecutor input.
The probable-cause statement did not note Gonzalez’s recent arrest history, Clements said. Meanwhile, court rules require a five-day notice to defense counsel and a special hearing to increase bail.
“If I would’ve had it my way, the guy would’ve been rolled up hard on the second one,” Clements said, adding, “The system slipped this time, no question about it.”
• Chris Bristol can be reached at 509-577-7748 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ChrisJBristol.