The man who was shot after exchanging fire with Milton-Freewater police in April is a suspect in a murder.
Robert Gage Sregzinski, 19, of St. John, Washington, does not yet face any charges in Gabriel Ledezma Rodriguez’s death and police could be looking for others connected to the case.
The information comes from a May 19 search warrant affidavit Umatilla County sheriff’s detective Kacey Ward wrote to investigate an arson at a Milton-Freewater home. The document states the Walla Walla Police Department identified Sregzinski as Rodriguez’s killer.
On April 28, Milton-Freewater police stopped Sregzinski in a 2007 Ford Focus for a traffic violation, according to Umatilla County Circuit Court documents. When officers spotted guns in the car, he took off.
Police pursued and Sregzinski fired a shotgun at police. One officer used his car to stop the Ford, and police shot and wounded Sregzinski. He is in the Umatilla County Jail, Pendleton, on 12 charges stemming from the incident, including attempted aggravated murder and unlawful possession of a short-barreled shotgun.
A search of the Ford turned up guns and ammunition, along with black ski masks, rubber gloves, a roll of duct tape, containers of gunpowder and more.
Ward in the affidavit stated he received an email May 3 from Walla Walla police detective Chris Ruchert asserting the department “developed information that Robert Gage Sregzinski had committed a homicide in the Walla Walla area” and Rodriguez was the victim.
Walla Walla police detective Steve Harris on May 4 called Ward with more information: A witness reported Sregzinski shot Rodriguez in a Walla Walla home. Sregzinski rolled the body into a carpet and had the witness help move the body to Sregzinski’s vehicle. Sregzinski then left to bury the body.
Police found a body days after a two-story uninhabited home at 83949 Highway 339, Milton-Freewater, caught fire May 18. The blaze damaged the home but destroyed the nearby garage. An investigation revealed the garage had no power and arson could be involved.
Walla Walla detectives had questioned Sregzinski about Rodriguez’s death, according to the affidavit, and he mentioned Winesap Road. Detectives suspected Sregzinski buried the body along the road that runs near Milton-Freewater. Walla Walla police heard about the fire the day it happened and realized the site was just a block east of Winesap. Ruchert asked Milton-Freewater officer Dan Lackey to go to the scene and look for a body.
Lackey found carpet that matched a design from the homicide scene, the affidavit states, and he found a pile of rocks and cement blocks.
When he moved the blocks, according to the document, “he noted a distinct odor of what he believed to be a dead body.”
That body was identified as Rodriguez. The sheriff’s office then established the site as a crime scene.
Sregzinski was in custody at the time of the fire and does not face arson charges. Umatilla County District Attorney Dan Primus said only that the case remains an active investigation. Walla Walla Prosecuting Attorney James Nagle was not immediately available Thursday afternoon for comment, and a spokesperson for Walla Walla police also did not immediately return a call.