Walla Walla birthday party turns into ‘war zone'

Five people received gunshot or stab wounds in the gang fight.

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CONTRERAS

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SAENZ

WALLA WALLA - A gang fight early Saturday morning ended with gunshot and stab wounds to five people, with one victim airlifted to a Portland hospital and two gang members arrested.

A "war zone" was how a Walla Walla Police Department news report described the scene when officers arrived at a single-family residence in the 1300 block of Center Street at 2:16 a.m. The house is owned by a husband and wife who both have strong ties to local law enforcement.

Arrested in connection with the fight were Jacihel Contreras, 25, who was taken into custody by officers following his release from a local hospital for stab wounds, and Fernando Saenz, 22.

Contreras was arrested on investigation of two counts of assault in connection with the shootings. Saenz was arrested on investigation of five counts of assault in connection with the stabbings. Police believe that Saenz may have mistakenly stabbed Contreras during the fight.

According to police, a "birthday party with numerous gang members was taking place," but violence erupted when several people with no known gang affiliations stopped at the house.

Police reported that after several people had already been stabbed during the fight, a semi-automatic handgun was brought out and fired.

Along with Contreras, Juan P. Robles, 22, and Louis Camargo, 42, were also taken to local hospitals with stab wounds. Robles has five stab wounds to the chest and was in serious condition Saturday night. Camargo was in satisfactory condition Saturday night with two stab wounds.

Another victim, Alan Roblero, 22, received a superficial gunshot wound to the head and a stab wound to the abdomen. He was in serious condition Saturday night, but is said to be doing very well by nursing staff, according to police.

Roblero's brother, Osman Roblero, who was airlifted to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, was in critical condition Saturday night with two gunshot wounds to the chest.

On Saturday afternoon, a street barricade remained on the sidewalk of Center Street and Bryant Avenue, the only sign that something had occurred nearby.

Further up the street, landlords Steve and Vicki Ruley inspected their rental property. They were still in disbelief over what had occurred 12 hours earlier.

"We did everything by the book and we had no clue," Vicki Ruley said, adding that once a month she visited with her tenant and performed regular inspections in her attempt to keep her property from becoming a crime scene.

It is what Ruley is trained in and teaches others to do as a city of Walla Walla Police Department Crime Prevention Specialist, a position she's held for the last 12 years.

"Of all the properties in the entire city, I do everything by the book. And it happened to us," she said.

Ruley's husband, Steve, also has ties to law enforcement as the Walla Walla City and County Emergency Services dispatch manager. But he and his wife agreed there seemed to be a lack of communication between them and the police department when it came to being informed about gang activity on their property.

"I was just absolutely stunned. I had heard nothing about gang activity," Steve Ruley said.

According to the news release, the house had "been frequented by gang members in the past."

Vicki Ruley added that police told her on Saturday they had a number of calls to the residence, but she had never heard of any suspected gang activity in the home that has been owned by her husband's family for more than 50 years.

"It's just incredible. It totally surprised us," she said.

On Saturday afternoon, police were still investigating the fight and were unavailable for comment as to whether Saturday's fight was related to a recent string of gang activity, including a gang fight involving at least eight people March 7 in the area of 12th Avenue and Birch Street, where a 15-year-old victim received serious injuries after being hit on the head numerous times with a baseball bat.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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