After a hells angels member from California was shot in the leg while passing through Pasco, witnesses clammed up and refused to share anything with detectives.
Two weeks later, state investigators are hopeful people will come forward to give some clues into what happened that Aug. 18 afternoon on Highway 395.
The wounded motorcyclist, Dennis Donahue, 52, has since been released from the hospital. And five of his fellow members, who were arrested on suspicion of criminal mischief with a deadly weapon, posted bail and have not been charged.
“This was a very kind of chaotic situation where it stretched over a lot of miles,” said Lt. Randy Hullinger with the Washington State Patrol’s criminal investigation division. “I think it would be hard to go through an experience like that and not be scared … (but) I don’t know what completely their reason is” for not cooperating.
Hullinger described it as “an interesting circumstance” because people who were victims at different points in the road-rage incident won’t tell anything to investigators.
“We know that there’s somebody out there who saw something, it’s that they just haven’t (seen the news reports) yet” asking for witnesses, said Hullinger. “… It doesn’t matter how big or small they think their information is. We’d love to talk to them because sometimes as we talk, other details will start to come out.”
The altercation is believed to have started on Highway 395 near Clearwater Avenue in Kennewick with motorcycles, vehicles and pickups driving erratically. It continued north over the blue bridge and through Pasco, briefly onto eastbound Interstate 182, and then back onto Highway 395 heading toward Spokane.
Franklin County Sheriff deputies and Washington State Patrol trooper investigate the scene on Highway 395 about three miles north of Pasco, where a man was shot in the leg on Aug. 18. Witnesses have remained silent about the incident, which is still under investigation. Watch a video at tricityherald.com/video Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald
Hullinger said they know that others were involved aside from Donahue and the five men arrested. Those other motorcycles and vehicles likely sped off onto side streets from Highway 395 and Interstate 182 in an attempt to either get away or hide, he said.
That’s why investigators think there are more potential witnesses who just don’t realize they saw something important. Even if they didn’t see the actual shooting of Donahue on northbound Highway 395 near the King City Truck Stop, they may have seen the motorcycles and vehicles earlier on one of the highways or turning onto a side street, Hullinger said.
“This is one of those investigations where it’s just huge. There are a lot of details and areas to cover,” Hullinger told the Herald. “We are still in the process of putting things together and seeing what we have and determining our next steps from there.”
One witness told the state patrol that he was working on his broken down car on the side of Highway 395, south of the incident, when he noticed two groups of motorcycles passing by.
Three motorcycles then pulled onto the shoulder ahead of him and one rider pointed a handgun at the man, according to court documents. The man, who called 911, said the other two riders appeared to talk to their buddy for a moment and then the third guy put the gun in his waistband and they drove off.
The witness further said that after fixing his vehicle, he continued north on Highway 395 and, as he passed the shooting scene, he recognized those same three motorcyclists on the side of the highway, documents said.
Investigators have determined that based on the timing of the witness’ call to emergency dispatchers, the gun was pointed at him “within moments” of Donahue being shot in the left leg.
When troopers, police and deputies responded to the shooting, they found five motorcycles stopped on the shoulder along with a Chevrolet Silverado. The pickup was traveling with the group of motorcyclists.
Bullets reportedly damaged three motorcycles, and a bloody pistol was found about 15 feet away from the parked motorcycles.
Hullinger said they are fairly confident that someone from a different group of motorcycles or another vehicle shot Donahue. Additionally, Donahue is not the rider who pointed the gun at the disabled motorist moments before, he said.
The five people arrested that day would not speak to investigators about what happened.
The men — all from California, ranging in age from 47 to 66 and identified as hells angels members based on their clothing and motorcycles markings — were booked into the Franklin County jail on the criminal mischief allegation. Two of them also were accused of unlawfully possessing a firearm.
The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is considered a criminal gang by the U.S. Department of Justice.
During an Aug. 21 court appearance, all five signed a waiver of extradition, which means they agree to be returned to Washington state if later charged in this case. They posted bond that same day,
Hullinger said given Donahue’s injuries, they opted not to book him into jail on the same allegations after he was released from Kadlec Regional Medical Center.
Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant said his office wants to have all information before making a charging decision.
The state patrol crime lab currently is analyzing some key evidence, including cellphones and the motorcycles. Sant said he hopes to get reports on those findings within two to four weeks, if not sooner.
Hullinger said the investigators don’t yet know if it was a mutual combat situation, so they have to look at all angles of what might have led up to the shooting,
“The detectives are working diligently and we’ll just keep plugging away until we see what we come up with,” he said. “Everyone still is suspect in this thing until we can get it resolved.”