ONTARIO — It was business as usual on Monday for a local recreational marijuana dispensary, as owners decided to open their doors following a fatal stabbing that occurred on a sidewalk outside the store on Sunday.
Police say the crime was possibly gang related and two Nampa men are now in custody in Canyon County Jail, awaiting extradition to Malheur County, according to a phone interview with Malheur County District Attorney David Goldthorpe on Monday morning. Those men are Gerardo Lopez, 27, and Luis Carlos Duran, 19, and are both facing charges of murder in the second degree and assault in the first degree.
Ontario Police Chief Steven Romero says they believe Duran is the primary suspect in the stabbing, while Lopez initially assaulted the victim.
Goldthorpe said the victim Jonah Reyes, was born in 1994 and was currently a resident of Ontario, but had previously lived in Washington state.
The murder was said to have resulted from a verbal argument inside the store that ended abruptly on the sidewalk outside. Officers responded to the stabbing at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Burnt River Farms on Northwest Washington Avenue.
According to a news conference with Romero on Monday afternoon, the argument inside the dispensary was initiated by the victim, “unfortunately in this case.” Romero said according to video footage and witness statements, Reyes was a patron inside the store along with Lopez. What lead to the "heated argument" was allegedly Reyes comments on Lopez’ shoes and color.
While police are looking into whether Reyes had any gang affiliation, Romero said the practice of fighting over colors is commonly known among law enforcement as “gang-banging,” which the chief, formerly from Los Angeles, described as when one side calls another side out about his gang affiliations.
Lopez went outside before Reyes, meeting up with Duran, who the chief says was never inside the dispensary.
Romero said when Reyes completed his transaction he walked outside, and at that point Lopez allegedly punched him, knocking him to the ground.
At that point, Duran allegedly stabbed Reyes “while he is down on the ground,” Romero says.
Police believe there was only a single stab wound to the upper body but can not speak definitely to that or the cause of death, which must be determined by autopsy. That is slated to happen on Wednesday in Clackamas County, according to the chief.
Reyes died on scene; first responders did attempt live-saving measures.
A knife was recovered from the crime scene, although Romero said police don’t yet know if it is the one that was used in the crime.
Images taken from the dispensary were instrumental, the chief said in helping police locate the suspects. This is because police were able to push out pictures to local area law enforcement and someone on the “Idaho side recognized [them] and shared their names.”
That information along with being able to obtain the license plate number of the vehicle that fled the scene were integral for police in Nampa, who were ultimately able to bring the men in at about 8 p.m. Sunday, Romero said.
Word of the stabbing and the suspect’s name spread throughout the community like fire, according to Goldthorpe, and some of Reyes’ family members who were nearby subsequently showed up to the scene.
The investigation by Ontario Police Department is ongoing; the agency was assisted by Oregon State Police, and Malheur County Sheriff’s Office.
Goldthorpe said his hope is to have Duran and Lopez in court in Malheur County “this week.”
Dispensary's camera footage 'helped lead to these people getting caught’
“Absolutely we’re going to go ahead and open up,” said Shawn McKay, co-owner of Burnt River Farms in a phone interview on Monday morning. “We’ve met with our staff and reiterated that their safety is our number one concern.”
McKay and his business partners would like to “reiterate how safe dispensaries are.”
“We have surveillance that goes above and beyond any other business in the city,” he said. “That really helped lead to these people getting caught.”
To this he added anyone thinking about doing a crime around a dispensary should consider that it will be caught on camera.
In addition to it being part of the requirements by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, dispensaries are known to take extra measures.
“Ourselves and other dispensaries go above and beyond when it comes to camera coverage — all stores have 360-degree surveillance [inside and outside],” McKay says.
The crime is the first of its kind at this dispensary.
However, with the number of people shuffling in and out of dispensaries on a daily basis, the likelihood is higher.
“Anytime you have thousands of people through a business in a day, there is potential for something like this to happen,” McKay says.
No employees were injured or directly witnessed the crime, he says, adding anybody who did see the aftermath was a secondary witness.
“We all ran out when we heard about what happened,” McKay said.
The dispensary shut down for the rest of the day following the stabbing, closing “pretty much” immediately.
“We took time to get everyone [including customers] out, and talked with employees to get them feeling as good as possible before they went home,” McKay said.
He pointed out how random the crime was that occurred.