MOSES LAKE — A Moses Lake man who is serving life for the aggravated murder of another man in 2013 had his drive-by shooting convictions dismissed by appeals court judges. The judges did not dismiss the man’s murder conviction, however.
Anthony Rene Vasquez was found guilty by a Grant County jury of first-degree aggravated murder, with an aggravator of drive-by shooting, three counts of drive-by shooting, tampering with a witness and unlawful possession of firearm in connection with the September 2013 murder of Juan Garcia, 22, outside of Airport Grocery, located in the 6300 block of Patton Boulevard Northeast. Vasquez was sentenced to life in prison in February 2016 by Judge John Antosz.
Vasquez shot and killed Garcia as the victim was sitting in the passenger seat of a GMC Envoy that was parked outside of Airport Grocery. Vasquez arrived at the store in a Toyota pickup truck, which was parked on the side of the business approximately 63 feet away from the Envoy.
Vasquez left the pickup, hid behind a nearby utility fence for about a minute and ultimately rushed to where Garcia was seated in the Envoy and shot and killed him at point-blank range. Under Washington law, a drive-by shooting must occur either inside a vehicle at the time of the shooting, or in the vehicle’s immediate area. The judges reversed the convictions on the basis of Vasquez leaving the Toyota, as well as the 63 feet that was in between the Toyota and Envoy at the time of the shooting.
“Mr. Vasquez’s offense did not fall within either circumstance. Mr. Vasquez was far from reach of the Toyota at the time he shot Mr. Garcia,” reads the appeals court’s decision. “In fact, Mr. Vasquez had to traverse several intervening obstacles in order to get a clear shot at his victim. Although Mr. Vasquez was in the immediate area of Mr. Garcia’s Envoy at the time of the shooting, he was not in the immediate area of the Toyota that had transported him to the scene. Mr. Vasquez’s offense therefore does not qualify as a drive-by shooting.”
Because the state couldn’t prove the drive-by shooting charges and aggravator, the convictions were reversed and the case was sent back to Grant County for resentencing. Because the drive-by shooting aggravator was dismissed, when Vasquez is resentenced he will be sentenced for non-aggravated first-degree murder, which carries with it a term sentence, as opposed to a life sentence.
Richard Byrd can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.