Third suspect in major Walla Walla gang brawl pleads guilty

Ramiro Zuniga Jr. faces up to a year in jail after agreeing to a deal offered by prosecutors.

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WALLA WALLA -- A third suspect accused of participating in a massive gang-related fight that erupted downtown in June has pleaded guilty in Superior Court to a riot charge.

Ramiro M. Zuniga Jr. entered the guilty plea Thursday to felony riot as his trial on that charge and a companion charge of accomplice to second-degree assault was scheduled to begin.

Zuniga, 23, of 245 N.E. Elder Place, No. 2, College Place, had a set of brass knuckles and participated in assaulting a person during the fight, officials said.

In pleading guilty, he didn't admit committing the crime of riot and reportedly had alibi witnesses who would testify he wasn't at the scene. But he acknowledged the prosecution had evidence that could convict him, so he decided to take advantage of a plea agreement.

Zuniga faces up to a year in the County Jail when he's sentenced later. He was released from jail pending disposition of his case several days after he was arrested in September. In the plea agreement, the prosecution is recommending no additional jail time. In addition, the accomplice-to-assault charge will be dropped.

On Monday, two co-defendants pleaded guilty. Joaquin G. Ramirez, 21, of 1001 W. Chestnut St., entered a guilty plea to felony riot, admitting he brought a baseball bat to the scene. Hector Gonzalez, 20, of 1045 St. John St., pleaded guilty to a gross-misdemeanor riot charge (not armed with a deadly weapon.) They also will be sentenced later.

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.

At least three people were injured in the melee.

A total of six adult defendants were charged in Superior Court with crimes associated with the fight. The remaining suspects are awaiting trial.

Two juveniles also are scheduled to stand trial later.

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

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