YAKIMA, Wash. -- In an effort to thwart possible retaliatory violence, Yakima police are increasing patrols near the northeast Yakima convenience store where a recent shooting left a 26-year-old man in critical condition.
“My team, we will step it up, do more patrols in that area, investigate (the shooting) and try to find out what happened,” said Sgt. Rafael Sanchez. “It’s something that could snowball and we have to get in front of it.”
On Saturday evening, Raymond Moreno-Hernandez was sitting in his car parked outside the Market & Deli at 515 N. Eighth St. when he was shot in the head.
Although Moreno-Hernandez had gang ties at one time, there’s no indication he was involved in recent gang activity, said police, who believe he stepped away from gangs long ago. Facebook posts from those who know Moreno-Hernandez describe him as a working man who cared for his wife and two children.
Police say it’s hard to determine whether the shooting was connected to gang issues or if Moreno-Hernandez simply was a victim of random violence.
“We have to find out what the motivation was for this latest shooting,” Sanchez said.
Either way, the area’s latest shooting continues to make nearby residents fearful. Bullets from Saturday’s violence pierced Fidel Mora’s car, steel fence post and his neighbor’s house.
“We’re thinking if we should move out of here,” said Fidel, a 30-year resident. “It’s scary.”
Moreno-Hernandez is the third person to be shot at the store within a year.
On March 5, Jared Scroggins was walking with a friend outside the store when he was shot in the abdomen and was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Less than a year earlier on April 28, 2016, Shawn Martinez died after being shot multiple times while outside the market.
Neither was believed to have gang ties, police said.
On Monday, Moreno-Hernandez was still in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he underwent two surgeries and had a bullet removed from his head, said his former boss and family friend Tiffany Bahena, who managed a local fast-food restaurant where Moreno-Hernandez once worked.
His wife, Amanda, has been by his side since the shooting, Bahena said.
“They’re pretty hopeful,” Bahena said. “Amanda says when she talks to him he squeezes her hand, so there is some response from him.”
The couple has two small children, ages 2 and 6, she said. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the family.
Moreno-Hernandez’s mother, Delia Moreno, said the family isn’t ready to talk to the media but is asking for prayers.
“Any kind of prayers would help,” she said while at her son’s side Monday. “I thank everybody for all their help.”
It’s no secret the neighborhood where the convenience store is located is a hotbed for gang violence. Since 2009, there have been nine injury shootings. Four of those were homicides. The two most recent killings have yet to be solved.
Jerry Scroggins, father of Jared Scroggins who was slain March 5, said he wants to see more police on the streets tacking gang crime. He’s worried shootings will keep occurring without cases being resolved.
“There’s just too many unsolved cases and there’s just too many people shooting and getting away with it,” he said Monday. “They need to get in the field and they need to face this. There’s too many gangs growing and evolving here.”
Sanchez said police need help from the community. Potential witnesses need to provide more information about crime in the area and not enough is being done to deter youth from stepping into gangs. Sanchez said he would accept anonymous calls, and is willing to protect the identity of witnesses.
“There’s been some homicides that are unsolved but we would love to solve those,” he said. “I want the public to understand that we live in this community too and we want to solve these. We need those phone calls to make that happen.”
Although shootings are nothing new in the neighborhood largely composed of small bungalows and residents who live in high poverty, fear of violence is growing, Mora said. He pointed to a bullet hole in his house near a window from a shooting five years ago. But Mora says he’s seen the most violence in the past three years.
His neighbors are concerned as well.
“They’re feeling like me,” he said.
Just a few doors down, Randy Ralph said it’s worrisome that citizens without gang involvement are being shot in the area.
“So, if they’re just shooting people randomly that haven’t crossed them, that doesn’t make sense,” he said. “No, I don’t feel safe.”