Four years after Sunnyside slaying, suspect’s murder trial begins

More than four years after being charged with murder in the shooting death of a 21-year-old man in Sunnyside, Raymundo Casares is finally facing a jury of his peers.

In 2015, police say Casares, 25, shot at three men outside an apartment complex, killing Oscar Gutierrez-Mendoza and leaving a then-20-year-old man paralyzed from the waist down after a bullet struck his spinal cord.

“Casares, by his actions, showed that he thought about what he was going to do and executed a pre-planned attack,” court documents said.

Casares was charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault and second-degree unlawful posession of a firearm.

According to court documents, the fatal shooting happened about 7:33 p.m. on May 9, 2015.

Police say Gutierrez-Mendoza was sitting in the passenger seat of a car parked outside The Meadows Apartments, 1415 S. Sixth St.; one 20-year-old man was sitting in the driver’s seat, while another 20-year-old man stood near the trunk of the car.

The three men noticed a black Honda pass by, driven by an unidentified woman, then turn the corner, court documents said.The second time, witnesses say they saw Casares sitting in the front passenger side of the car, staring directly at them.

After about five minutes, police say Casares came around the corner, walked toward the car and confronted the victims, asking them what gang they were affiliated with.

Police say when the victims told him they weren’t in a gang, Casares told them his gang affiliation and then — using an expletive — said that they were in trouble either way.

Casares allegedly pulled a gun out, which had been covered by a bandana, racked it and headed for Gutierrez-Mendoza. Witnesses say Gutierrez-Mendoza called out, “No, no, no,” before he was fatally shot.

Police say Casares shot at Gutierrez-Mendoza once, the driver two to three times and the 20-year-old who was outside the car about seven times, although he was not injured.

An autopsy determined Gutierrez-Mendoza died of a single gunshot wound between the ribs. The 20-year-old driver was taken to Harborview Medical Center; he was hit twice, with one bullet damaging his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

After the shooting, police say Casares ran away from the apartment complex. Witnesses told police they saw a black Honda speeding away just a few moments later.

Casares was arrested a little over two weeks later and booked into the Yakima County jail, where he continues to be held in lieu of $2 million bail.

At the time of his arrest, Casares had a previous felony conviction in juvenile court for possessing an explosive device, according to court documents.

The trial began last week and continues Monday morning in Yakima County Superior Court.