Police are looking for an alleged gang member accused of killing a young father early Saturday morning near Puyallup, reportedly because the victim disrespected him.
Eric Contreras, 22, shot Victor Zaldivar, 21, of Orting at close range in the chest after the victim refused to offer him beer at a party, according to Pierce County documents charging the suspect with first-degree murder.
Contreras is described as a Hispanic male, 5-foot-6, about 180 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. He’s known to frequent Tacoma and Lakewood, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.
When Contreras and other uninvited gang members allegedly tried to crash the private birthday party with about 50 guests, Zaldivar was one of the first to make it clear the party was not one with an open invitation for anyone dropping by, according to the victim’s friend Eric Estrada, 26.
Many guests who felt uncomfortable with the strangers claiming to be part of the Sureño-associated Playboyz gang made them feel unwelcome also, he said.
“They went down the block and I think they were waiting for any one of us to leave,” Estrada said. “It happened to be Victor, because he said he was tired.”
When Zaldivar and a friend walked away from the party, they encountered the gang members about a half block away. Estrada said he and others heard shots aimed not just at Zaldivar but the other friend who managed to run away unscathed.
According to court documents, that friend told detectives the men confronted them for showing disrespect. The friend said that after Contreras allegedly pushed Zaldivar, Zaldivar punched back. Then, according to charging documents, Contreras wrestled Zaldivar to the ground took out a handgun and shot him in the chest.
When police stopped a vehicle rushing Zaldivar to a hospital at about 1:30 a.m. from the 3700 block of 40th Avenue East in Pierce County, they found the victim struggling to breath. Central Pierce Fire and Rescue medics treated him on scene and took him to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, where he died during surgery.
Police who issued a search warrant at the house where Contreras had been living with his parents did not find him there. His mother, according to court documents, said she found it unusual that when Contreras came home Saturday at about 4 a.m., he did a load of laundry and left at about 9:30 a.m. He was scheduled to show up at work at 9:30 a.m., but no one has reported seeing him since then.
Today, about 700 people attended Zaldivar’s funeral and burial in Sumner, Estrada said. He said Zaldivar worked hard during 10-12 hour shifts at a lumber mill to support his girlfriend and their daughter, who is almost 2 years old.
“If he killed my friend over nothing, I’m sure he could kill somebody else,” said Estrada. “That’s our number one worry right now — that he could do this to someone else. We’re devastated.”
CrimeStoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for anyone who reports information leading to an arrest. CrimeStoppers number is 253-591-5959. Information can also be reported by calling 911.