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Killer of Parks' Kin Gets Life

July 27, 2002|ANNA GORMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles street gang member was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering the granddaughter of former LAPD Chief Bernard C. Parks one week before her 21st birthday.

Samuel Sharad Shabazz, 20, was convicted earlier this month of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Lori Gonzalez, a bystander caught between two gangs.

Shabazz fired into a vehicle that Gonzalez was driving and hit her instead of her passenger, the intended victim.

At an emotional court hearing, the victim's mother, Felicia Parks Mena, displayed photographs of Gonzalez and told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry that it was hard to go on.

She pleaded with gang members to put down their guns.

"A mother's cry for her dead child is like no other," she said. "Stop killing our babies."

Former Chief Parks, who sat next to his wife during the hearing, did not address the judge but said later, outside the courtroom, that he had attended both as a parent and as a grandparent.

"This is something that no one should go through," he said. "Closure does not come, but certainly justice was served today.

"Closure will never come because Lori will never return."

Gonzalez was shot on May 28, 2000, in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant in southwest Los Angeles when Shabazz approached her car and fired at her childhood friend, Ernest Gray. He missed Gray, a member of a rival gang, and hit Gonzalez in the chest and head.

During the weeklong trial, Gray and other eyewitnesses testified against Shabazz. Prosecutors argued that Shabazz, a West Boulevard Crip, had shot at the car in retaliation for another gang shooting.

Defense attorneys maintained that the photographs used to identify Shabazz had been flawed because he had been the only dark-skinned male pictured.

Jurors convicted Shabazz on July 3 of killing Gonzalez, and determined that he had committed the murder to benefit the gang.

They also found him guilty of eight other attempted murders, including four shootings in 1998, and acquitted him of a ninth attempted murder.

On Friday, the judge denied a motion for a new trial before sentencing Shabazz to the life term without possibility of parole and eight additional life sentences for the attempted murder convictions. He also ordered Shabazz to pay a $10,000 fine.

Shabazz, wearing an orange jail suit and shackles, looked straight ahead during sentencing.

When asked by the judge whether he wanted to say anything, Shabazz declined.

His mother sat in the back row of the courtroom, behind two rows of Gonzalez's family and friends.

Gonzalez, a recent beauty school graduate, was working two jobs at the time of the shooting. Her parents said she loved listening to music, going to church and taking pictures.

"Lori was a student of life," her father, Joe Gonzalez, said in court.

She lived in Orange County, but visited friends and relatives in Los Angeles regularly.

The murder moved Parks Mena to become involved in support and advocacy for parents of murdered children.

Several other women who had lost children attended Friday's hearing.

"Lori was murdered the same way as our children," said Anna Del Rio, whose daughter was killed in 1999.

"She was gunned down on the streets of Los Angeles. We're here to support the family."

Outside court, Joe Gonzalez said he is just one of many parents who has lost a child to gun violence.

He said he hoped that his daughter's death "may inspire somebody to put their gun down and talk instead of shoot."

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