North Sound News

UPDATE: Rivas sentenced to life without parole in shooting that blinded Mount Vernon officer

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — Update on Oct. 16, 2019: Rivas was sentenced Wednesday to life without the possibility of release or parole.

Officer Mike McClaughry was there, but did not speak as part of the court proceeding. Neither did Rivas. After the hearing concluded, McClaughry told KIRO 7 he felt relieved.

Reporter Alison Grande was in court and will have the complete story live from Skagit County on KIRO 7 at 5:30 p.m.

Update on Aug. 29, 2019:  The suspect, Ernesto Lee Rivas was found guilty Thursday afternoon.

KIRO 7's Joanna Small has been covering the case and will have a live report tonight at 5 p.m.

Original report  from Aug. 8, 2019:

After 14 delays, the Skagit County man who prosecutors said shot and blinded a Mount Vernon police officer was found competent to stand trial.

The trial for Ernesto Lee Rivas began with opening statements Tuesday, and testimony continued Thursday, including jurors watching surveillance video of the aftermath.

Rivas, 47, faces charges related to the Dec. 15, 2016, standoff with police that left Officer Michael "Mick" McClaughry blind after he was shot in the back of the head.

According to court papers, Rivas fired from inside the house, where he was holed up with two teenagers.

Police said it was those two teenagers who initially brought police to the scene.
Police said 16-year-old Austin Gonzales and a 15-year-old boy shot another teenager, 18-year-old Kyler Vallejo, nearby.

Then, according to charging documents, the two teens went to the house and they and Rivas shot at police for several hours.

Originally thought to be hostages, police negotiators said the teenagers could be heard laughing.

The teens have since been tried and sentenced for their involvement. 
In the courtroom Thursday, Detective Wayne Jones pointed out McClaughry in video walking up to Rivas house.

Within minutes, McClaughry is seen in the upper left-hand corner of a video being dragged by officers from the porch, where he was shot while knocking on Rivas’ door to get information about an earlier gang-related shooting.

From a different camera, officers are seen continuing to drag McClaughry to safety on the other side of the road.

What followed was a five-hour standoff with police.

Rivas' roommate testified Thursday that Rivas sent him incriminating text messages. 
"It said, 'Don't come home, I'm going to die tonight,'" the roommate testified.

Rivas is charged with two counts of attempted murder — one for the alleged shooting of McClaughry and one for the shooting that officers had gone to Rivas' home to investigate — and four counts of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon.

McClaughry was completely incapacitated after the shooting, but his family said his strength and stubbornness helped him recover.

>>See KIRO 7's previous coverage of this story at this link.

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