MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – The long-awaited trial of a man accused of shooting and blinding a Mount Vernon officer ended in a guilty verdict. A jury found Ernesto Rivas guilty on all six counts against him, including attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. The verdict came in Tuesday inside a packed room at the Skagit County Superior Courthouse.
Mike McClaughry, the officer who was shot by Ernesto, said he wanted to put the trial and the life-threatening moment behind him.
“I’m done. I want to forget anything about that. And if anybody else wants to remember, that’s fine," said McClaughry. “We’re inexplicably intertwined in that fashion, I get that. But I’m done."
The highly-anticipated trial stemmed from a police standoff back in December 2016. Rivas was accused of shooting McClaughry in the head. The gunfire left the officer blind. McClaughry retired after the incident.
During a news conference after the verdict, McClaughry questioned why Rivas had a gun in the first place.
“When you decide to take a life, you have to have a very strong and very firm and very ethical character to be able to come with this. And you’re going to have to understand that, no matter what it’s going to end up being reviewed. And the standard is pretty high because you’ve taken a life,” said Rivas.
Once court was adjourned, McClaughry greeted members of the media with a smile on his face as he explained his vision was improving. He credited his skillful surgeons, both from two different countries, for helping him imagine his future.
“The biggest positive that comes out of this, for me, is how people can come together in the most intensive, the most invasive, the most delicate of all surgeries and can work together that way,” said McClaughry.
The optimistic outlook on life is one of many reasons why McClaughry said he planned to leave the trial and that fateful moment in 2016 in the past.
“I don’t have to think about it anymore. I don’t have to wonder when. I can now begin to move onto other things and not have to worry about this hanging around anymore. And I think it’s also good for everybody else. My gosh. It’s been an impact on everybody, the community, everybody,” said McClaughry.
Court officials said Rivas could face life in prison without the possibility of parole since the shooting was his third strike. A judge said Rivas’ sentencing date would be scheduled at a later time.