Local News

UPDATE: Suspect found not guilty in 2016 shooting death of bystander outside Moses Lake pub


A Grant County judge found Ismael Ortiz, Jr. not guilty on Monday.

Judge John Knodell ruled Ortiz, Jr. was not guilty of murder in the first degree and unlawful possession of a firearm following a six-day bench trial that ended in early March.

Ortiz Jr. was also found not guilty on an alternative charge of manslaughter.

Knodell questioned the reliability of testimony from the sole witness presented during trial, concluding the court could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Ismael Ortiz fired the shot that killed 68-year-old Robert Cook outside then Neppel's Dockside Pub, or that Ortiz committed any act that caused Cook's death.

“On the evidence before it, this Court does not find beyond a reasonable doubt either that Mr. Ortiz fired the shot that killed Mr. Cook or that he committed any act which proximately caused Mr. Cook’s death. This court finds Mr. Ortiz not guilty on all counts,” Knodell wrote.

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Original Story:

He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, a Moses Lake man shot dead as he drove through downtown early Saturday morning.

What started as a bar fight spilled into the street in the 200 block of W. Broadway. The argument started with three men late Saturday in downtown Moses Lake. Their fight ended in the street and, witnesses say Ismael Ortiz Jr. started firing a handgun in the street.

"It was pretty loud," said Brian Reese, who was sitting on a patio nearby. "It sounded to me like at least five or six gunshots just rapid-fire in succession.”

The shots were fired, not hitting the other people involved in the argument, but an innocent bystander, a 68-year-old man driving in his car.

Robert Cook was just leaving downtown Moses Lake when he was hit in the head with a bullet. He crashed into a parked car and pushed that parked car more than 100 yards down the road.

Skid marks on the road tell only part of the story. Shot in the head, Cook hit Reese's parked car, pushing it a block down the road. The incident left one car totaled and one innocent man dead.

"Things are never more important than people," said Reese.

Police arrested two men, including Ismael Ortiz Jr., and booked him for second degree murder.

It's not the first time he's accused of killing someone. Ortiz Jr.'s record includes convictions for second degree manslaughter, two first degree robbery charges and one first degree burglary charge. Police say he could face more charges along with the murder charge for Cook's killing.

Along with Ortiz Jr., police arrested one other man, they are still looking for a third person who may have been involved.

"Certainly hold those people accountable for this tragic and honestly senseless crime," said Capt. Brian Sands with the Moses Lake Police Department.