A gang member was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for killing a 3-year-old boy and wounding two alleged gang rivals in a shooting in East Oakland three years ago.
Lawrence Denard, 29, was convicted last month of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of premeditated murder for being the shooter in the incident outside a grocery store in a strip mall in the 6400 block of International Boulevard at about 1:10 p.m. on Aug. 8, 2011.
Prosecutor Ben Beltramo told jurors during the trial that Denard and Willie Torrence, 25, who he said was the driver, carried out the shooting in order to promote their gang, the 69th Village gang, and were targeting two members of the rival 65th Village gang, Robert Hudson and Jerome Williams.
Beltramo said Denard fired at least 10 shots from a Glock semi-automatic pistol, striking Hudson and Williams but also hitting and killing 3-year-old Carlos Nava, who was on his way to the grocery store with his mother and brother.
Carlos, whose death sparked widespread community outrage, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, Beltramo said.
In addition to convicting Denard of the murder and attempted murder charges, jurors convicted him of two counts of discharging a gun from a vehicle, being ex-felons in possession of a gun and multiple clauses of acting to benefit a criminal street gang.
During the trial, Beltramo played for jurors several videos that Denard recorded on his cellphone, including one made only an hour before the shooting, in which he called himself an "angel of death" and said he planned to murder his rivals and said they should live in fear of him.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner said the prosecution's case against Denard and Torrence was "powerful, overwhelming and devastating" and Denard's statements in the cellphone videos were "the equivalent of a signed confession."
Technically, Horner sentenced Denard to 130 years to life in prison plus another 7 years. Denard will serve the 7-year term first, then the 130-years-to-life term.
Horner said he chose to sentence Denard to consecutive terms for his convictions instead of concurrent terms because there were numerous aggravating factors in favor of a maximum sentence and "simply no circumstances in mitigation" that would call for a lighter sentence.
Horner said one of the most important aggravating factors is that, "It's hard to imagine having a higher degree of cruelty and callousness than firing at least 10 shots from a semi-automatic pistol at unarmed and vulnerable victims in a crowded area in the middle of the day."
The judge said, "Carlos had no chance at all -- he was in a yellow stroller pushed by his mother" and the boy's expectation that he was in a world of safety and love "was ripped from him by Mr. Denard."
Carlos' mother, Maria Teresa Nava, said in a statement read in court by Beltramo that she has lost much weight and suffered from diabetes, anxiety attacks and high blood pressure since her son was killed.
She said in the statement that Denard and Torrence should receive the harshest sentence possible "so they will not be free to do this to another unfortunate family."
Denard's lawyer, Annie Beles, said during the trial that Denard should be found not guilty of murder because she doesn't think the prosecution proved that he was the person who fired the shots in the incident or even that he was present at the scene of the shooting.
Before Denard was sentenced, Beles said she still thinks that Denard is innocent and said his conviction is "a tragedy" and "a disservice to justice."
Beles said Denard was convicted because of "cynicism and fear" and because of the emotional impact of a dead child.
The defense lawyer said, "The emotions that were played upon like a fine fiddle by the prosecution are what convicted him, not the evidence."
Torrence was convicted of the same charges that Denard was and is expected to receive a similar sentence when the hearing concludes later today
Several news outlets are reporting a 17-year-old boy and his father have crashed in the Pacific during the teen's attempt to pilot a single-engine plane around the world in 30 days.
The Indianapolis Star reports the airplane of Plainfield, Indiana, teen Haris Suleman and his father, Babar, had taken off from Pago Pago in American Samoa when their plane crashed Wednesday, according to Annie Hyatt, a spokeswoman for the family.
Haris' body was recovered, but authorities were still searching for Babar.
According to a July 20 feature story in The Indianapolis Star, Haris had recently acquired his pilot's license and instrument rating, which authorized him to fly an aircraft over oceans.
The two left Indiana June 19 in hopes of breaking a world record and raising money for a nonprofit that builds schools in Pakistan. They planned to return home Sunday.
The Express Tribune reported that Hiba Suleman, Haris’ sister, confirmed on her Facebook account that the body of her brother had been recovered, while rescue teams are still searching for her father.
Here is a look at Haris Suleman's Twitter account of the trip:
Editor's ntoe: This is an early report about the crash. For the latest developments, please click this link to continue reading
Hundreds of people were ordered to shelter in place in East San Jose Wednesday morning near where a gas pipe was broken by contractors working on a bus route for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, authorities said.
The residents near the site of the gas breach in the 300 block of South Capitol Avenue were ordered to stay in their homes for about an hour after the break was reported at 9:24 a.m., according to the San Jose Fire Department.
PG&E crews were able to cap the leak at 305 S. Capitol Ave. at 10:27 a.m. and the shelter-in-place order was canceled, fire officials said.
PG&E spokeswoman Monica Tell said the utility received a report that a third-party construction worker had struck the underground three-inch pipe while digging into the ground at about 9:15 a.m.
The workers had not notified PG&E before proceeding with the project, Tell said.
VTA spokeswoman Colleen Valles said that a subcontractor of the transit agency's main contractor hit the gas pipe while working on the VTA's Santa Clara Alum Rock Bus Rapid Transit project, a planned bus line linking Santa Clara to Alum Rock.
The site of the leak was across South Capitol from the VTA's Alum Rock light-rail station.
The VTA closed its light-rail line from the nearby McKee station to Alum Rock and had passengers transfer to a bus line instead, transit officials said.
A skateboarder was killed when he hit a parked car while riding in a bike lane in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood Tuesday morning, police said Wednesday.
The victim was riding a motorized skateboard in the 600 block of Eighth Street at about 9 a.m. Tuesday and crashed into the parked car, police said.
He was taken San Francisco General Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries. His name and age have not yet been released, according to police.
The San Jose Police Department has debuted an academy to train the first class of community service officers to answer non-violent police reports for sworn officers, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The 25 people selected for the program have started a five-week instruction program at the Evergreen Police Academy in San Jose and will then serve three weeks of field training, police Sgt. Heather Randol said.
The officers will not have the authority to make arrests or give citations, but will respond to lower-priority, non-violent reports to give sworn police officers more time to answer emergency calls and other enforcement duties, Randol said.
The community officers, or CSOs, will answer cold calls for non-violent crimes when there is no suspect on the scene or suspect information available, such as burglary, theft, vandalism, non-injury traffic collisions, missing persons, road hazards and crowd and traffic control duties.
The CSOs will work two shifts at police substations Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 12 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and be divided evenly among the department's four patrol divisions.
The Police Department at first considered more than 800 applicants for the program, had each take a written test prior to an interview and then selected 124 candidates from the group.
The department chose the final 25 applicants for the academy after conducting extensive background checks on the candidates, according to Randol.