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Slayer of Parks' Kin Is Convicted

Trial: A gang member is guilty of murder in the shooting of the ex-police chief's granddaughter. He's also found guilty of eight attempted killings.

July 04, 2002|ANNA GORMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles gang member was convicted Wednesday of murdering the granddaughter of Bernard C. Parks, the former Los Angeles police chief.

Samuel Shabazz faces life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing 20-year-old Lori Gonzalez, who was shot as she drove a car out of a fast-food restaurant parking lot on May 28, 2000. Gonzalez was a bystander caught between rival gangs.

"It's what we hoped for and prayed for, although nothing can bring back our daughter," Gonzalez's mother, Felicia Parks, said outside court. "We have our memories, and at least we feel that we did get the answer that we wanted."

Shabazz, 20, looked down as the verdict was read in the courtroom of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry. Several of Gonzalez's relatives, seated in the front row, held hands and embraced. The former chief was not in court.

Jurors deliberated for a day and a half before finding that Shabazz was a gang member who committed the murder to benefit the gang. The seven-man, five-woman jury also found Shabazz guilty of eight other attempted murders, including four separate shootings in 1998. He was acquitted of one attempted murder charge.

Prosecutors said they decided not to seek the death penalty for Shabazz because he was 18 at the time of the murder.

He is scheduled to be sentenced July 26.

The shooting touched an emotional chord in Los Angeles, prompting calls for a crackdown on gang violence as Gonzalez became a symbol of innocent victims. Condolences from then-President Clinton, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and singer Lionel Ritchie were read at Gonzalez's funeral.

She was shot in the chest and head after driving through a fast-food restaurant in southwest Los Angeles. Shabazz walked up to her car and aimed his gun at her passenger, Ernest Gray, a rival gang member, who ducked. Gonzalez died that night, a week before her 21st birthday.

Gonzalez, who lived in Mission Viejo with her father, had come to Los Angeles to visit childhood friends, including Gray. She was a student at Saddleback College, worked as a telephone operator and taught Sunday school.

During the weeklong trial, prosecutors argued that Shabazz, a West Boulevard Crip, shot at the car in retaliation for another gang shooting.

The Crips thought that Gray, a Blood, had committed a drive-by earlier that day and responded by sending three carloads of members to the fast-food restaurant at La Brea Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Anthony Manzella called several eyewitnesses who identified Shabazz. Police testified that cartridge cases they found in Shabazz's car matched cartridge cases found at three 1998 crime scenes.

"The whole case was strong," Manzella said. "With all the evidence in this case, there was no defense."

Manzella said it was only the connection to Parks that made the case unique.

"This happens almost every day on the streets of Los Angeles," he said.

Defense attorneys argued during the trial that police planted evidence and that the photographic lineups used to identify Shabazz were flawed because he was the only dark-skinned male pictured.

Gonzalez's uncle, Bernard Parks Jr., said the murder was "extremely hard" on the former chief, who was told of the verdict. The younger Parks said he hopes the verdict will affect other gang members.

"You hope that someone will take notice from this and realize that two years after it happened, it still doesn't make sense," he said.

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