SANTA ANA (CBS) — A 23-year-old man was sentenced Friday to life in prison for killing someone in his group of friends who didn’t want to join the gang they were in.
Luis Alberto Sanchez was convicted May 3 of murdering 21-year-old Miguel Reyes. He was also found guilty of street terrorism with sentencing enhancements for murder for a gang, causing great bodily injury, shooting a gun and shooting a gun causing death and great bodily injury. His sentence excludes the possibility of parole.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Colleen Crommett said Sanchez shot and killed Reyes at a graduation party, KNX 1070’s Mike Landa reports.
The incident happened about 10:30 p.m. on June 13, 2008. The two knew each other and their friends were involved in a “tagging crew” that was evolving into a street gang, according to Reyes’ longtime friend Edgar Rojas.
Reyes had no interest in joining the gang and talked of joining the Marines so he could financially help his grandmother, who he was living with at the time. Reyes had a Marine recruiter’s business card in his wallet when he was slain, Crommett said.
The victim told partygoers that he had met with the Marine recruiter and looked forward to joining the military, Crommett said.
That upset Sanchez, who pulled out a gun and shot Reyes in the chest, Crommett said.
As Reyes tried to get away, Sanchez shot him again in the back, the prosecutor said.
Sanchez fired off several more rounds into the panicked crowd, wounding another man, who lapsed into a coma for almost a week with a bullet in his brain, Crommett said. He suffered paralysis on the right side of his body, but was able to regain most of his movement through physical therapy, and now depends on a cane to walk, Crommett said.
Rojas and Reyes’ sister, Concepcion Morales, said the victim was involved with the tagging crew because he liked graffiti art.
“He was more of an artist than a tagger,” Rojas said.
Rojas said Reyes usually had a pad of paper and a pen with him wherever he and his friends would get together.
“He would come up with his own characters,” Rojas said. “Just crazy characters. I can’t even describe it.”
Reyes wasn’t afraid to stand up for his friends, said Rojas, who recalled once how Reyes intervened in a dispute between his friend and a gang member. Reyes and his friends were at a fast food restaurant and someone in their group apparently caught the eye of the gang member, Rojas said. Reyes left the restaurant to confront the gang member, “and the guy just reached in the door and stabbed him in the stomach,” the friend said. Reyes needed stitches but wasn’t otherwise seriously hurt.
Morales recalled how Reyes wanted to marry his girlfriend.
“He was really in love with his girlfriend,” she said. “He would make these big, old murals with their names on it when they first started dating. He even wrote a poem that said every time he sees a rose he thinks of her.”