Trial date set in September shootout near downtown Walla Walla

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WALLA WALLA -- A man pleaded innocent Monday to charges stemming from a suspected gang-related shootout near downtown Walla Walla last month.

Jose L. Rodriguez Jr., 19, of 117 N.E. 11th Ave., Milton-Freewater, is scheduled for trial Nov. 23 in Walla Walla County Superior Court. He is accused of first-degree assault for allegedly firing rounds from a semiautomatic SKS rifle in the area of Second and Eagan avenues on Sept. 20.

Rodriguez was apprehended about 12:10 a.m. that day as he was leaving the scene in a vehicle at a high rate of speed, officials said. He allegedly admitted taking the rifle to the area and firing rounds in the air to try to scare off rival gang members who were there to fight, according to a police report filed in court. "Rodriguez also stated he was not the only one who fired it," the report says.

One witness reportedly told police Rodriguez fired first at the opposing group, then the two groups exchanged fire and were not shooting above each other's heads. The rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun reportedly were recovered near the scene.

Apparently no one was injured.

Numerous callers reported the shots fired about a half-hour after officers had responded to a fight that broke out between two rival gang members during a dance at the National Guard Armory at Colville and Poplar streets.

The fight reportedly moved to the area of Second and Eagan -- where some gang members apparently live -- and eventually involved at least 20 people, according to reports. Up to two dozen shots apparently were fired.

In addition to assault, Rodriguez faces charges of possessing methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. Bail was set at $50,000.

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

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