YAKIMA A first-degree murder charge has been dropped against Benjamin D. Rodriguez, 19, of Outlook.
The prosecutor’s office, this past Monday, decided not to charge him for murder or manslaughter after considering the circumstances and family history with his father, Jose Guadalupe Rodriguez Jr.
Jose was shot and killed April 10 at the family’s Outlook home, 231 Tomlinson Road.
Benjamin admitted to Yakima County Sheriff’s deputies he was responsible for shooting his father, court records show.
However, Prosecutor Joseph Brusic said a formal review of reports and lengthy discussions regarding the facts of the case led him to withdraw the first-degree murder charge.
“After a full and fair consideration of all the facts and analysis of their relationship, as well as the familial history, including the grandparents of the suspect, it is my belief that the State of Washington would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the absence of self-defense undertaken by Benjamin Rodriguez,” Brusic said in a memo provided by his office.
Self-defense has three elements, including a fear of imminent danger of bodily harm, belief that is objectively reasonable and exercising no more force than is reasonably necessary, Brusic noted.
Facts examined included Jose Rodriguez’s history of drugs used and volatility, his historic relationship with his son and parents and the facts presented to Benjamin.
“… under the conditions that existed at that time to him on April 10, would, in my humble opinion, defeat any criminal charge for murder or manslaughter at trial,” Brusic stated.
In a narrative submitted to the court, Benjamin told deputies Jose has a history of drug abuse and was attempting to break into a safe, which contained medications belonging to several family members.
Jose allegedly grew agitated and angry, smashing furniture before grabbing a rifle and firing it outside. He allegedly wanted to instigate a shootout with law enforcement, according to court records.
Benjamin initially said he retrieved his own 22-caliber rifle, Jose pointed the one he possessed, and Benjamin responded by shooting Jose in the face.
Benjamin said he was trying to prevent a shootout with law enforcement.
Benjamin said he covered his father’s body with a rug after believing his father was no longer breathing because the incident happened outside, and he didn’t want those working in a nearby orchard to see.
After calling his grandmother to tell her about the shooting, she called 9-1-1.
In the meantime, Benjamin allegedly grabbed a large trash bag and placed it over his father’s head to avoid getting blood all over the porch on which the body lay, records show.
He allegedly told investigators the bag began coming off as he moved the body to the family’s garage, so he used a belt and wrapped it around the open end of the bag, around his father’s neck.
When deputies arrived, one reported hearing a gasp from Jose, and he removed the bag. Paramedics were called and transported Jose to the hospital in Sunnyside.
He died later that day as he was being stabilized for an airlift to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Yakima County Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Casey Schilperoort said.
An autopsy was completed April 11, and it was determined he died from a single gunshot wound, Schilperoort said.
Brusic said the drug problem and erratic, aggressive behavior by Jose was corroborated by Benjamin’s grandparents, who allowed the father and son to live with them.
All these factors were considered, leading Brusic to conclude, “The nature of the relationship, living situation and subjective evaluation by the suspect would prevent conviction by a reasonable and objective fact finder.”