Man charged in gang-related attack on pedestrians

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WALLA WALLA — A man who associates with gang members is accused of participating in an attack on two pedestrians in the area of Chase Avenue and Maple Street early this year.

Juan Venegas Esquivel, 19, was charged Friday in Superior Court with second-degree assault, fourth-degree assault and riot.

Esquivel is accused of being among about 10 suspected gang members who surrounded William D. Hale Jr. and Kevin J. Reynolds and assaulted them as they were walking home from a local tavern about 11:55 p.m. Jan. 11. Shots from an air gun apparently were fired during the attack.

Hale and Reynolds reportedly had just encountered two teenage boys who asked if they were “gang banging.” The victims said they were not gang members and were only walking home.

A short time later, the large group appeared, confronted Hale and Reynolds with gang references and started attacking them, according to a police report filed in court.

The victims tried to defend themselves. But Hale was hit and kicked in the head, suffering facial injuries, including a depressed fracture of a nasal bone. He also received treatment at Walla Walla General Hospital for a BB wound to his right hand.

Reynolds told police he was hit by several assailants.

In a subsequent interview with authorities, Esquivel admitted being at the location of the assaults but maintained he walked away and didn’t hit the victims. He wouldn’t say who was involved, according to the police report.

Esquivel, of 815 E. Alder St., Apt. 3, told police he is not a gang member, but has hung out with members since he was a kid, the report says.

He hasn’t been arrested on the charges, but is being summoned to court May 28 for his first appearance.

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

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