Ortiz charge upped to first-degree murder


MOSES LAKE — A Moses Lake man who is accused of shooting and killing a bystander outside of a Moses Lake bar in June is now facing a first-degree murder charge.

Grant County prosecutors amended the charges against Ismael Ortiz Jr., 25, of Moses Lake, in connection with the shooting death of Robert Cook, 68, of Moses Lake, on June 5. Ortiz is now charged with first-degree murder and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. The defendant was previously charged with second-degree murder and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. Ortiz has prior convictions of first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and second-degree manslaughter.

Just after midnight on June 5 Ortiz’s co-defendant, Jose Rodriguez, 25, of Moses Lake, who is currently charged with tampering with a witness in connection with the incident, allegedly got into a fight with Loren Meade, 30, of Moses Lake, inside Neppel’s Dockside Pub in Moses Lake. Ortiz got involved in the fray and punched Meade, which led to all three men getting tossed from the bar.

After the fight and during the time period Ortiz, Rodriguez and Meade were being thrown out of the pub, Cook and his female friend decided to leave Neppel’s and got into Cook’s pickup truck, which was parked to the west of the bar’s entrance. Cook’s friend told police she heard five loud “pops” come behind the truck, which she initially thought were fireworks.

She said she turned around to see who was lighting off the fireworks and saw a four-door passenger vehicle pull up alongside Cook’s truck and pass them, with Meade allegedly riding in the passenger seat. She claimed Meade pulled out a “large black handgun” and pointed it in the direction of the Ash Street/West Broadway Avenue intersection.

At that same time, Cook was fatally struck in the back of the head by a bullet. A witness reported seeing a large-framed Hispanic man, alleged to be Ortiz, fire numerous shots in the direction of Cook’s truck while standing in the Ash Street/Broadway Avenue intersection. Ortiz and Rodriguez fled the scene on foot and started heading toward the Alder Street fill. Two men who were fishing on the west side of the fill reported hearing the gunfire and seeing two people run from where the shots were fired and go across the grass toward the water near the fill.

One of the two subjects allegedly hopped into the lake, but got back out and moved toward a dock near Neppel Park. Ortiz and Rodriguez allegedly approached the men and told them they needed their fishing poles. The suspects allegedly asked the fishermen to tell police they had been fishing with them for the past couple of hours.

Police eventually tracked down Ortiz and Rodriguez and took them into custody. Numerous people who were at the bar confirmed that Ortiz and Rodriguez had been in a fight before the shooting. The description of the clothes the shooter was wearing allegedly matched what Ortiz was wearing when police found him. Meade was later taken into custody in Moses Lake on June 13.

Richard Byrd can be reached via email at city@columbiabasinherald.com.

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