Ernesto Lee Rivas has an extensive criminal record that stretches back to the early 1990s, according to court records.
After Ernesto Lee Rivas pleaded guilty in 1998 in a deal with Yakima County prosecutors that saved him from a life sentence, he turned to a police detective and said with a smile, “Oh, by the way, does that mean I got four balls and a walk?”
Rivas was sentenced to 15 years in prison and avoided a three-strikes conviction, which would have sent him to prison for the rest of his life. A Yakima police detective protested the deal, calling Rivas a “predator.”
Rivas is suspected of shooting a Mount Vernon police officer in the head Thursday night after the officer responded to reports of a shooting near East Fir Street and North Laventure Road. The shooting of the officer touched off an hourslong standoff that ended Friday morning.
The officer, 61, remained in critical condition Saturday at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. He was identified as Mike “Mick” McClaughry, a father of three grown children and a grandfather.
“He’s a resilient individual, and I have no doubt that he will pull through this just fine,” Mount Vernon Police Department Lt. Chris Cammock said during a briefing televised on KOMO News on Friday afternoon. Also at the briefing, Washington State Patrol Sgt. Keith Leary called the shooting’s aftermath a “trying time in Mount Vernon.”
The 44-year-old Rivas — and two teenagers — are being held on suspicion of attempted first-degree murder, Skagit County prosecutors said.
Rivas was identified as the suspected gunman by Skagit County Prosecutor Rich Weyrich and was ordered held in lieu of $1 million bail during a Friday court hearing.
The two juveniles, ages 15 and 16, are being held in lieu of $500,000 each, Deputy Prosecutor Rosemary Kaholokula said.
The prosecutor’s office has until 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to file formal charges.
During Rivas’ hearing, he refused to answer questions. His attorney told Judge Michael Rickert, “I’ll speak for Mr. Rivas. We’re not agreeing to answer any questions on anything.”
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Rivas’ criminal history stretches back to the early 1990s, court records show. In 1997, he was convicted of unlawful imprisonment and second-degree theft in Yakima County Superior Court. Rivas also pleaded guilty to unlawful firearm possession in 2011.
He was subject to a domestic-violence protection order last year after the mother of his child accused him of stalking her at work, according to The Associated Press.
The mother of Rivas’ then-4-month-old child obtained the order, saying he had been stalking her at her job at a Dollar Tree store in Mount Vernon because he wanted a Chevrolet Suburban they owned.
“He sits outside my work for long periods of time, comes into my workplace and complains about me,” she wrote in a petition for the order. “He almost hit me with his vehicle while I was getting carts, yelling at me in front of customers.”
Avoiding a third strike
In the 1997 case, Rivas initially was charged with four counts of first-degree kidnapping, four counts of second-degree assault, four counts of intimidating a witness and one count of first-degree robbery, according to The Yakima Herald-Republic. With two previous convictions for second-degree assault, Rivas faced a mandatory life sentence under the state’s Three Strikes You’re Out law, had a jury convicted him on any one of the more serious kidnapping or assault charges, the newspaper reported.
Instead, just days before Rivas’ second trial was scheduled to begin, prosecutors agreed to drop all of the most serious felony charges in exchange for guilty pleas by Rivas on three lesser charges: two counts of unlawful imprisonment and one count of second-degree theft. Those three charges do not count as a third strike.
The judge ordered Rivas to serve the maximum sentence under state law.
The newspaper said the sentence angered Yakima police Detective Eric Walls, who described Rivas in a statement to the judge as a dangerous criminal who never should be allowed to leave prison.
“He is a prime example of a predator, and I want the court to know this (plea agreement) angers me,” Walls said. “He deserves a lot more.”
“I take this plea bargain to avoid a third strike,” Rivas said. Turning to Walls, who was sitting a few feet away in the courtroom, Rivas then smiled, the newspaper reported, and said, “Oh, by the way, does that mean I got four balls and a walk?”
Rivas and another man were arrested after the Aug. 12, 1997, incident in which four people allege they were held at gunpoint — with one claiming to be bound at the hands and feet — and grilled for three hours about a missing necklace belonging to another man’s girlfriend.
After his arrest, Rivas had several run-ins with other inmates at the Yakima County jail, the newspaper reported. Rivas was investigated by corrections officers, who said they had evidence the tattooed inmate had smuggled a shank, or small knife, into his jail cell, the newspaper said. However, no weapon was ever found.
On Thursday evening, canvassing the area for witnesses to a weapon offense, police approached the home near East Fir Street and North Laventure Road “with the intention of knocking on the door,” Cammock, the police lieutenant, told reporters Friday afternoon.
Then shots were fired, he said. McClaughry was struck and fell to the ground.
Other officers quickly brought him to a safe area, authorities said, though the exact locations of the wounded officer and the gunman during the shooting remain unclear. Also unclear is if, or to what extent, the initial report of a weapon offense is connected to what unfolded later, State Patrol Sgt. Leary said.
For hours after the shooting, while the officer was in surgery at Harborview after being airlifted from Skagit Valley Hospital, the shooter remained barricaded in the home and continued to fire shots.
Gunshots could be heard as television reporters broadcast live from the scene for their late news programs.
“This person is still shooting at officers; last I know he was shooting at a SWAT vehicle,” Leary said during a briefing televised on KING 5. “Please pray for the officer who is in the hospital.”
Authorities said throughout the evening that at least one hostage was being held, and according to the State Patrol, negotiators spent hours communicating with the shooter. But after 1:30 a.m., Leary told reporters during another briefing that there had been no hostages. Instead, two other people in the home were arrested.
Leary said the suspect may have been using social media.
“If he is streaming this on Facebook, the best thing for him to do is give himself up and end this situation,” Leary said while the situation was active. “It’s not going to get any better.”
Mike Ullom, who lives a few houses away from the shooting and standoff, said he heard gunfire all night.
“There must have been 50 rounds,” he said. “At one point, he (the suspect) was shooting at the helicopter overhead. And the cops were shooting all the lights out on the power poles. I saw the SWAT team move in front of us. There were cops everywhere.”
Rivas was arrested just after 1 a.m. Friday.
The wounded officer
A 31-year veteran of the Mount Vernon Police Department, McClaughry was the agency’s first D.A.R.E. officer and “a father figure to a lot of youth,” Cammock said.
He served several years as a reserve police officer in Everett, where he grew up, before joining the Mount Vernon department, where he worked as a criminal investigator and a patrol and field-training officer. Cammock said McClaughry had trained more than half the department’s staff.
McClaughry had been conscious at Harborview earlier Friday, but staff sedated him to monitor his condition, Cammock said. He called news of the officer’s condition more positive than negative and said McClaughry’s family is seeking privacy.
“They are obviously pretty devastated,” hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said. “We are doing everything humanly possible to care for that officer. … He’s very sick; he’s very critical.”