A Clark County detective who was shot and killed while investigating a gun theft two summers ago was a victim of a premeditated ambush, prosecutors told jurors in court. But the gunman’s attorneys argue he was defending himself.
On Friday, jurors at Clark County Superior Court heard the opening arguments in the trial of Guillermo Raya Leon. He faces charges of aggravated murder for shooting and killing Detective Jeremy Brown in July 2021.
The killing became the violent end of a lengthy investigation into a firearms heist that involved Raya Leon, his brother and his brother’s wife.
Leon wore a blue button-up shirt while sitting at the defense table, in front of a courtroom laden with Brown’s friends and family. He sat silently while his attorneys traded opening arguments with the state for more than an hour.
To Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik, who opened the proceedings, the killing was a calculated act. He portrayed Raya Leon as making decision after decision to deliberately confront Brown, who was part of a surveillance team tracking Raya Leon’s family.
“He knew he was an officer. He ruminated that he was an officer,” Golik said. “He shot Jeremy Brown from behind, from a position of ambush.”
Defense attorney Therese Lavallee disputed the characterization and instead painted Raya Leon as a tag-along who got sucked into rapidly devolving scheme to sell illicit firearms, led by his brother’s wife, she said.
Raya Leon’s decision to confront Brown, she contended, wasn’t malicious.
“He says, ‘Hey what are you doing? Are you waiting for somebody?’” Lavallee said. “And he says in his statement that the person in the driver seat immediately grabbed a gun and immediately turned and fired.”
As Lavallee reconstructed the scene to the jury, she noted it’s unclear who fired first. She suggested Brown shot first, and Raya Leon shot back. She described the killing shot as “unlucky.”
On the day he died, Brown was a late addition to an ongoing investigation into a spate of break-ins, the most recent of which involved a cache of rifles, handguns and ammunition. That break-in occurred in June 2021.
Over the weeks after the robbery, Clark County detectives and other law enforcement agencies homed in on Raya Leon’s sister-in-law, Misty May Raya.
On July 23, Clark County detectives tracked Misty May Raya to Castle Rock, Washington, where she was with her husband and Raya Leon. The detectives followed them south through Clark County and into a shopping center on Hayden Island.
Ultimately, they followed them to The Pointe apartment complex in east Vancouver.
Court records state Guillermo Raya Leon became convinced they were followed. He went outside and confronted a maroon-colored Jeep in the parking lot, driven by Brown. The two exchanged gunfire. Brown later died of his wounds.
The trio sped off in a car driven by Raya Leon’s brother, Abran Raya Leon. They crashed about a mile away. Police then arrested Abran Raya Leon and Misty May Raya in the backyard of a home. Guillermo Raya Leon was caught in Salem the next day.
Guillermo Raya Leon’s trial is expected to last about three weeks.
Last month, a jury found Abran Raya Leon guilty of second-degree murder, possession of a stolen firearm and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. He’s since been sentenced to 27 years in prison.
Misty May Raya is slated to go to trial Oct. 9. She faces a slew of charges including second-degree murder, theft, burglary and more than two dozen counts of theft of a firearm.