Yakima County set a grim record in November.

Armando Jimenez-Cruz’s death Nov. 23 was the 36th homicide in Yakima County this year, the most homicides recorded in the county since 1980, according to statistics compiled by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

The previous record, 35, was first set in 2018 and tied in 2020.

Yakima has only had 14 homicides this year, five shy of the record 19 homicides recorded in 2018.

Jimenez-Cruz, 36, died from a gunshot wound, according to a Yakima County sheriff’s news release. He was found dead in a car the day before Thanksgiving at the intersection of Old Prosser and Mountainview roads.

This year’s homicides also included the county’s first school shooting, when 16-year-old Shawn Dwight Tolbert was shot in the parking lot at Eisenhower High School March 16. His 15-year-old cousin pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the case and has been sentenced to incarceration in a juvenile rehabilitation facility until his 21st birthday.

The total also includes the beating deaths of José Navarro, 84, and Rafaela Guzmán Navarro, 87, on July 4 in Union Gap. Police went to the Navarros’ home shortly before 10:40 p.m. after their grandchildren found them injured and unresponsive. The case remains unsolved.

In the past, Yakima police Chief Matt Murray has said that homicide rates are not an accurate measure of violent crime, as they are such a seldom occurrence that a slight shift in numbers creates a drastic change in percentages, and that the line between a homicide and an assault can depend on factors such as the victim’s wounds and whether medical help was close by.

Instead, he looks at aggravated assaults, which he said went down by more than 17% in 2021.

Countywide, the lowest years for homicides were 1991 and 1992, which tied at 7. The city’s low was 1983, when there were no homicides reported.

Reach Donald W. Meyers at dmeyers@yakimaherald.com.

Crime and Courts Reporter

Donald W. Meyers is a multimedia journalist at the Yakima Herald-Republic covering crime and courts. He is also the writer behind “It Happened Here,” a weekly history column. Before coming to Yakima, Meyers covered a wide variety of beats at The Salt Lake Tribune, Daily Herald, and daily and weekly newspapers across New Jersey. He is also a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, serving as a regional officer in the organization as well as on the national Freedom of Information Committee.

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