Teen accused of drive-by shooting near a Kennewick high school. Why his mom is charged

The mother of an accused teenage drive-by shooter is now facing charges after her son was tied to five drive-by shootings in the span of two months.

Juanita Espinoza, 43, was cited with failing to supervise her son, Eduardo Lopez. The misdemeanor could carry up to three months in jail.

Kennewick police said they were charging Espinoza, as they announced the arrests of her 17-year-old son and Cesar I. Villagrana, 20, of Pasco, in connection with a drive-by shooting on Oct. 12 at apartments on 720 N. Arthur St.

The apartments are just across the street from the driveways and pickup areas of the school.

Kennewick police Commander Isaac Merkl explained Espinoza had been warned about the possibility of facing charges if she didn’t step in to stop her son.

“We’re not going out every day looking for parents,” he said. “We’re using this tool for parents who are continuously failing to supervise their children. This being one of those examples.”

Along with having a pistol that was tied to a series of five drive-by shootings in 2023, Lopez has previous convictions for misdemeanor assault, illegally possessing a gun and vandalism.

The Kennewick code used to charge his mother has been on the books for more than 40 years and has been updated a number of times, most recently in 2008.

Merkl said using the law is not always the best option, and officers try to find the program that works the best for the situation.

Bail is set at $125,000 for Villagrana, who was allegedly behind the wheel of his Volkswagen during the drive-by. He is in the Benton County jail on suspicion of drive-by shooting.

Kamiakin High drive-by

Villagrana and Lopez, both gang members, allegedly arrived at the Arthur Street apartment buildings about 4:45 p.m., according to court documents.

Lopez got out of the rear passenger side of the car and allegedly fired a 9mm handgun at rival gang members, court documents said.

While he missed his intended targets, he allegedly hit two occupied apartment buildings. No one was hit, but the bullets passed through a room children were in.

While school was out for the day, students and staff were still on campus for after-school activities. The high school went into lockdown briefly while police investigated.

Police identified Villagrana’s car and tracked it down to an Owen Avenue home in Pasco later the same day. Officers impounded and searched the car, but weren’t able to find any evidence.

Lopez was arrested during a weapons complaint on Oct. 22. Police found a 9mm handgun in his bedroom, which had been tied to five local shootings between August and October 2023.

Police found social media messages from the teen showing he bragged about shooting at rival gang members at the Arthur Street apartments.

Initially, the intended victims didn’t want to speak to police about the shooting. Earlier in the month, one of the people identified Villagrana as the driver of the car, according to court documents.