Two plead guilty in brawl

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WALLA WALLA -- Two men pleaded guilty Monday in Superior Court to being involved in a massive gang-related fight that erupted downtown in June.

Joaquin G. Ramirez, 21, of 1001 W. Chestnut St., entered a guilty plea to felony riot, admitting he brought a deadly weapon -- a baseball bat -- to the scene.

As a result, the prosecution agreed to drop a companion charge of accomplice to second-degree assault and recommend he be ordered to serve time on the Department of Corrections work crew.

Also Monday, Hector Gonzalez, 20, of 1045 St. John St., pleaded guilty to a charge of gross-misdemeanor riot (not armed with a deadly weapon). He faces up to a year in the County Jail, but the prosecution is recommending a suspended sentence for him with no additional jail time.

Both defendants -- who will be sentenced later -- were released from the County Jail several days after they were arrested in early September pending further proceedings in their cases.

Gonzalez had been accused of two felonies -- riot and accomplice to second-degree assault. But Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joe Golden explained in an interview that police believe "(Gonzalez's) culpability was less than the others.

"He was involved, but not to the level of a felony," Golden said.

By pleading guilty to riot charges, the men admitted they acted with others in using or threatening to use force against people or property.

They also admitted that the fight was gang-related.

Walla Walla police said the brawl involving 60-100 people occurred shortly before midnight June 13 outside St. Patrick Catholic Church where a graduation party was under way. A group of gang members had started harassing three associates of a rival gang and calling on one of them to fight, according to a police report filed in court.

Those being harassed left the area and allegedly armed themselves with various weapons. The fight broke out when they returned in Ramirez's truck, police said.

At least three people were injured in the melee.

Ramirez and Gonzalez are among six adult defendants charged in Superior Court with being involved in the fight. The other suspects are awaiting trial dates. Two juveniles also are scheduled to stand trial later.

Most of the suspects were arrested Sept. 3 during a coordinated sweep by about 10 area law enforcement officers.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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