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Saunders, Trooper James E.

End of Watch: 
Thursday, October 7, 1999
County: 
Franklin
Agency: 
Washington State Patrol

On Thursday, October 7, 1999 at about 2100 hours, Washington State Patrol Trooper Jim Saunders conducted a traffic stop on a green 1992 Mazda pick-up near the 2800 block of West Lewis Street, just off Highway 395 in Pasco.  The truck was driven by Nicolas Solorio Vasquez, an illegal alien from Mexico and convicted felon, who was out on bail pending a cocaine delivery charge.

Trooper Saunders called out the vehicle description and plate.  Within one minute, a citizen picked up his radio microphone and said Trooper Saunders had been shot.  Witnesses reported seeing the green pick-up, occupied only by a short Hispanic male wearing a cowboy hat and black and white coat.  Witnesses reported hearing gunshots, only to find Trooper Saunders down on the side of the road.  No one witnessed the shooting itself.

Trooper Saunders was shot multiple times in the head and neck.  He was transported to a local hospital where he died.

The pick-up was located on Friday, parked in a garage in Kennewick where Vasquez’s fingerprint was located on the driver’s door.  Trooper Saunders had also printed the vehicle upon approaching Vasquez.

At around 2245 hours on Friday, Vasquez and a 37 year-old Basin City resident were arrested after trying to flee in a car driven by the other man in Basin City, about 25 miles north of Pasco.

Vasquez pleaded guilty to aggravated first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

Trooper Saunders had served with the agency for nine years. He was survived by his expectant wife and 2-year-old daughter, parents and sister.