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Vandal's Slayer Sentenced to Clean Graffiti : Controversy: Protesters call for murder trial, but prosecutors say it was self-defense. Misdemeanor conviction also means he must give up guns.

November 09, 1995|EFRAIN HERNANDEZ JR. | TIMES STAFF WRITER

William A. Masters II, who shot and killed one graffiti vandal in Sun Valley last January and wounded another in a case that roused a national debate, was sentenced Wednesday to 30 days removing graffiti and to three years on probation. He was also ordered to give up his guns.

Protesters outside the courtroom continued to call for Masters to be tried and imprisoned for murder--an option prosecutors rejected months ago, saying Masters acted in self-defense.

Masters' case exploded onto national talk radio, where he drew widespread support, much of it from gun owners and anti-crime and anti-graffiti forces. Critics called him a racist vigilante, contending that he needlessly shot the two Latino youths.

Masters, 35, was convicted last month on two misdemeanor counts--carrying a concealed firearm in public and carrying a loaded firearm in public.

The graffiti removal portion of his sentence is a common community service ordered in many misdemeanor cases.

Municipal Judge Lloyd Nash also sentenced Masters to attend a 10-hour Hospital and Morgue Program in which participants view victims of violent crimes.

Nash ordered that Masters' 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol be destroyed and banned him from possessing any firearm or other dangerous weapons while on probation.

Masters, an activist for the right of citizens to bear arms who previously ran afoul of the law in Texas for carrying swords in the street, repeatedly has said he would not allow himself to be disarmed.

Masters said after the sentencing that he was unsure what he would do with what he described as his "small collection" of weapons.

The sentence included four days incarceration, but that refers to time Masters already spent in jail.

Protesters called the sentence a miscarriage of justice.

"He should be brought up for charges of first-degree murder. What does this say to the family of a dead youth?" said Daniel Ruiz, a member of a group known as the Four Winds Student Movement.

A coalition of Latino attorneys has also protested the decision not to prosecute Masters on more serious charges.

Masters killed Cesar Rene Arce, 18, and wounded David Hillo, now 21, just after midnight on Jan. 31 under a Hollywood Freeway overpass. Masters said that when he encountered the youths painting graffiti, he wrote down the license number of their car. They demanded he surrender the paper and his wallet, and he pulled his pistol and opened fire when Hillo threatened him with a screwdriver, he said.

Masters, who was not licensed to carry a gun, shot Arce through the back of the chest. Hillo was hit in the buttocks. Hillo conceded that he was holding a screwdriver, but denied threatening Masters. He was given brief hospital treatment for his wound and released. Hillo was later sentenced to 20 days in jail for trespassing and vandalism.

Masters' lawyer, C.D. (Chuck) Michel, said, "Mr. Masters is not a vigilante. He's just somebody who did not want to be a victim."

Prosecutor George A. Schell had sought at least 90 days in jail and 90 days of graffiti removal.

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