A gang member was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole for giving a gun to a cohort who used it to kill an off-duty sheriff’s deputy in Cypress Park as he prepared to leave for work at the Men’s Central Jail.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald Coen handed down the maximum possible sentence of life without the possibility of parole, plus 65 years, for Jose Renteria, who was sentenced by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald Coen, was convicted of first-degree murder in Deputy Juan Abel Escalante’s Aug. 2, 2008, shooting death, and of attempted murder in the unrelated May 15, 2007, shooting of Luis Piche, who survived.
During the trial, Deputy District Attorney John Colello told the jury that Renteria told another inmate, in a recorded jailhouse conversation, that he wanted to give Carlos Velasquez — the admitted gunman in Escalante’s slaying — a gun that was functional, not one that would have jammed.
The prosecutor told jurors that in the non-fatal shooting, Renteria went into rival gang territory “looking for a victim” to kill and leaned out a car window to fire 13 shots at a man who will bear scars for the rest of his life.
Renteria had a close relationship with Velasquez, who shot Escalante four times at “basically point-blank range” about 15 months later outside the deputy’s childhood home, according to Colello.
Velasquez mistook Escalante for a member of a rival gang, according to the prosecution.
Defense attorney Larry Sperber told jurors that it was uncontested that Escalante was murdered “in cold blood,” but questioned whether the gun used to kill the off-duty deputy was the only weapon that could have been found to use in the crime.
Phil Stirling, assistant head prosecutor of the Target Crimes Division and Crimes Against Peace Officers Section, said the life sentence for Renteria was well deserved, calling him “an entrenched gang member who acted with unambiguous intent to kill.”
“He was a leader amongst his peers,” Stirling said. “Given who he is and what he did, he deserves that sentence.”
Renteria was not eligible for the death penalty because he was a minor when he committed the crimes.
Velasquez, 28, who went by the moniker Stoney, pleaded guilty last October to first-degree murder in exchange for a life prison term without the possibility of parole.
Arnoldo Pineda, who testified that he was ordered to drive to the Cypress Park neighborhood of Los Angeles where Escalante was slain, pleaded no contest in September 2010 to voluntary manslaughter.
Pineda, 31, is facing a 14-year state prison term.
Guillermo Hernandez, 24, pleaded no contest in April to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 21 years in state prison.
He waived credit for three years he had already served behind bars.
Co-defendant Armando Albarran, 30, was recently extradited from Mexico, and another man, Roberto Salazar, 26, is still wanted.