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Jury: Man guilty in shooting, blinding of police officer

August 30, 2019

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (AP) — A jury has found a 47-year-old man guilty in the 2016 shooting of a Mount Vernon police officer.

The Skagit Valley Herald reports Ernesto Rivas was found guilty of attempted first-degree murder and assault Thursday after about a day and a half of deliberations and a trial that lasted several weeks in Skagit County Superior Court.

Officer Michael “Mick” McClaughry was shot and blinded in December 2016 as he knocked on Rivas’ door to get information about a gang shooting that happened earlier in the day.

Law enforcement knew Rivas to be a Nortenos gang member, but also knew him to be a person who didn’t have a beef with law enforcement, Skagit County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Rosemary Kaholokula said in court.

She said McClaughry knocked on Rivas’ door and said, “Ernie we just want to talk with you” before McClaughry was shot through a glass doorway panel.

The jury found Rivas guilty of two counts of attempted murder — for McClaughry’s shooting and for the shooting that led McClaughry and other investigators to his home.

Rivas was also found guilty of four counts of first-degree assault: one each for shooting at McClaughry and Mount Vernon police officers Liz Paul and Ben Green, and one for the victim in the first shooting.

Prosecutors said Facebook messages and phone calls with police negotiators showed Rivas all but confessed to the shooting.

Defense attorneys argued that was bravado and that a younger gang member who was in the house at that time pulled the trigger.

After the verdict, McClaughry, a 30-year veteran of the Mount Vernon Police Department, said he felt relieved.

“I don’t have to think about it anymore,” he said. “I can now just begin to move on to other things.”

McClaughry said he couldn’t see when he was released from the hospital, but said Thursday his vision has been slowly improving.

Sentencing for Rivas will be set next week.

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