Police: Sunnyside carnival shooter targeted rival gang member, but hit 5 people instead

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — Authorities continue to investigate a suspected gang-related shooting that injured five people at a Cinco de Mayo celebration in Sunnyside on Friday

Sunnyside police believe a single shooter was targeting a rival gang member when they fired multiple times into a crowd of people in the carnival section of the event. Instead, the shooter struck an adult and several juveniles including a seven-year-old child.

Police said a 35-year-old man was shot in the leg and taken to Harborview Medical Center for treatment. One boy was reportedly shot in the face and treated at Astria Sunnyside Hospital.

Authorities said all five victims are currently recovering from non-life-threatening injuries.

“The incident is not classified as an active shooter incident, rather information has clearly identified the shooting as being gang-related,” Sunnyside police said in a news release.

Sunnyside police take juveniles into custody after hours-long standoff, release them after questioning

Sunnyside Cinco De Mayo Shooting 3

Credit: Emily Goodell, KAPP-KVEW

Officers reportedly took two juveniles into custody at the scene and chased another five for several blocks until they ended up barricading themselves inside a home on Harrison Ave near S Sixth St and refused to come out.

After an hours-long standoff, the juveniles came out of the house and surrendered to the police without incident. It’s unclear whether the juveniles were suspects or witnesses, but police released them to their parents after questioning them.

Investigators served a search warrant on the house where the juveniles were hiding and recovered at least one firearm. No arrests have been made.

READ: ‘It’s just sickening’: Shooting shuts down Cinco de Mayo celebration in Sunnyside

Shortly after the shooting occurred — at 4:45 p.m. — authorities shut down events for the remainder of the evening, as police continued to collect evidence and engage in a standoff with juveniles.

On Monday, officials from the Sunnyside Police Department responded to inquiries about why the juvenile suspects were released in the following statement:

Primary factors governing the release of the juveniles from custody are federal regulations.  According to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 2002, juvenile offenders can only be held in a secured environment for six hours.   Additionally, state regulations govern the questioning of juveniles under House Bill 1140 which passed during the 2021 legislative session. RCW 13.40.740, which became effective January 1, 2022,  states law enforcement officers may no longer conduct interviews/interrogations of juveniles without the juvenile first having access to legal counsel.  A juvenile cannot waive this restriction even if they want to waive their rights and agree to speak with officers.  All of these factors combined, placed the department in a position where we could not process and filter the evidence collected to develop the probable cause necessary to charge a specific suspect within the time limits set by federal regulations.

Anyone with information about or video of the shooting can contact the Sunnyside Police Department by calling 509-836-6200 or making an anonymous tip here.

Cinco de Mayo festival canceled after just a few hours

The annual Cinco de Mayo festival in Sunnyside is one of the largest Hispanic celebrations in the Pacific Northwest and had scheduled events throughout the weekend. The beloved celebration was cut short to just a few hours because of this incident.

The festival featured more than 100 vendors, carnival rides, fair food and was supposed to include more than a dozen live entertainment acts on Saturday and Sunday.

Sunnyside Cinco De Mayo Shooting 2

Credit: Emily Goodell, KAPP-KVEW

However, both the Sunnyside Police Department and A&A Promotions — which runs the annual festival —released statements Saturday notifying the public that the remainder of the weekend’s events had been canceled.

“Unfortunately, there was no way we could have avoided the actions of those involved,” A&A Promotions said in a statement. “But we can protect our community. And so we and the police department have decided to move ahead with the cancellation.”

A&A Promotions announced over the weekend they would be providing refunds to people who bought presale tickets.

Organizers said all tickets and wristband coupons will also be honored at other Rainier Amusements locations.

Sunnyside City Manager Elizabeth Alba also released the following statement on Saturday:

“Due to the unfortunate events that took place during yesterday’s 34th Annual Cinco de Mayo festival, it is with deep regret and out of an abundance of caution for everyone that the decision to cancel the remainder of the event was made. The Cinco de Mayo Festival has a long history in Sunnyside as a safe and enjoyable family event and we are saddened by its abrupt end this weekend. We will continue to keep the families of those wounded, our residents, and our first responders in our thoughts and prayers.”

Mental health support available for students, community members

United Family Center, which helps provide mental health resources for the Sunnyside School District, is offering extra resources Monday to students and their families who were negatively impacted by the shooting.

“I am sure that this day will forever be etched in the memories of many,” said Humberto Rodriguez, CEO and founder of United Family Center. “Events like this evoke grief, anger, sadness and trauma.”

Rodriguez said while some students may not outwardly be reacting to the incident, many will still be affected. He said their goal is to do what they can to support the community and their students.

That’s why the organization is also offering mental health support to those outside of the Sunnyside School District who might be struggling with their response to Friday’s incident.

“I want to communicate this to everyone in our community; if you need help or want to speak to someone please call us at 509-402-9090,” Rodriguez said. “We are happy to help in any way we can.”

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