A 23-year-old man convicted in a November shooting that left one dead and nearly killed three others was sentenced Wednesday to 64 years to life in prison.
“I almost feel I have to apologize to your family,” District Judge Kenneth Cory told the defendant, Matthew Washington, in handing down the sentence. Washington’s family observed the hearing from the back of the courtroom, some wiping tears from their eyes. “Your family has to sit and see their loved one receive such a sentence, but I cannot do justice to this matter without imposing that kind of a sentence.”
Prosecutors said Washington and Martell Moten, who is still awaiting trial, fired at least 14 shots into an apartment in the 2600 block of Sherwood Street where four people were asleep.
Nathan Rawls, 31, died after being shot in the back as he slept on a sofa.
Washington, whom Chief Deputy District Attorney Barbara Schifalacqua called a “documented gang member,” has a history of criminal charges against him, including a 2011 felony burglary conviction. He had been released from prison only a few months before the central valley shooting last year.
Prosecutors said the gunmen did not know any of the victims in the apartment, and authorities never determined a clear motive for the shooting.
Schifalacqua said Washington and Moten pulled up to the apartment complex in a silver Dodge Magnum, jumped out and ran toward the apartment. They fired the shots, ran back to the vehicle and drove away, with Washington at the wheel.
The hail of bullets fired through a front window and door had come within inches of killing three others, prosecutors said.
Ashley Scott and Laroy Thomas both were shot in their ankles, while sleeping on a love seat inside the apartment, as bullets flew past their heads, authorities said. A fourth person, Marque Hill, was asleep on the other side of the apartment, where four bullet holes were found near his bed, each shot narrowly missing him.
A neighbor called police after she heard the gunshots and gave a description of the vehicle. Washington and Moten were pulled over within four minutes of the shooting, Schifalacqua said.
Police found two handguns — a 9 mm and a .40-caliber — in the car, one in the back passenger seat, and another in the steering column. Both of the weapons were used in the shooting, but prosecutors could not determine who fired the fatal shot.
Defense attorney David Otto had asked the judge to run Washington’s sentences concurrently, saying that consecutive sentences amounted to the equivalent of life without parole.
Cory said he was “impressed by the devotion and loyalty” of Washington’s family throughout the trial, as well as Rawls’ family and “the depth of the grief that they felt.”
Cory referred to photos of the bullet holes and their proximity to the victims as he sentenced Washington on 18 counts, which included murder, attempted murder, discharging a firearm at or into a structure, and possession of a firearm by an ex-felon.
On top of a sentence of 20 years to life in prison for the murder conviction, Cory added consecutive sentences for each of the other victims because of “how close they came to having their lives so cavalierly snuffed.”
Contact reporter David Ferrara at 702-380-1039 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter: @randompoker.