ONTARIO - Police are continuing their investigation into the murder of a 36-year-old Nyssa man on Sunday, July 4, that investigators say appears to be gang-related.
Ontario Police Chief Steven Romero said his agency received a call around 4:30 p.m. Sunday and upon responding found Jerry Gomez dead in the driver’s seat of a car near Franz Bakery Outlet on Southwest Fourth Avenue in Ontario.
Romero said that Gomez’s “body did have some trauma,” but the cause of death was still being determined by the Oregon medical examiner.
Romero said “the company that Jerry kept” and his past history with the police department led investigators to believe the killing was gang-related. Gomez had pleaded not guilty to federal charge of one count of a felon in possession of a firearm. He had a trial date set for August 24.
As of Thursday afternoon, no arrests had been made but Brendon Alexander, Malheur County chief deputy district attorney, said there were suspects. The major crimes unit is handling the murder investigation and includes investigators from the Ontario agency, the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office and Oregon State Police.
Relatives of Gomez told the Malheur Enterprise that they contest police claims that the killing was gang-related. They said they think the murder stemmed from a personal conflict.
“It’s not a gang war, it has nothing to do with any gang-affiliation,” said Stevie Gomez, Jerry’s brother.
Gomez said that he last heard from his brother around 12:30 p.m. Sunday and that he was planning on coming to a family barbecue later that evening for the Fourth of July. Gomez said police publicly identified Jerry Gomez as the victim before speaking to the family and that investigators still hadn’t questioned him about his knowledge of the murder.
“They’re already a day late and a dollar short. They’re waiting for us to retaliate. They want us to do their job for them,” said Gomez.
Romero said that both claims were untrue and the idea that the police were waiting for retaliation is “absolutely absurd.”
“Regardless of their background, this was still a human being that was killed and we want to solve this case,” said Romero.
Court records show that Jerry Gomez was convicted in 2017 for the unlawful delivery of methamphetamine. He was charged in 2019 in Malheur County Circuit Court for two counts of illegal possession of a firearm. He was subsequently charged in federal court and that case was pending at the time of his death.
Stevie Gomez said that his brother was a “Nyssa boy” who’d spent his whole life in the area. He said Jerry Gomez was working in construction at the time of his death, and will be remembered as someone that “would give his shirt to a complete stranger if they needed it.”
“He’ll never get the chance to prove that he was more than just a felon,” he said.
Support reporting you can trust - subscribe to the Enterprise online service for $5 a month.