By City News Service
A gang member convicted of murdering two people, including a 15-year-old boy, and trying to kill 12 others in a crime spree in Santa Monica was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli also tacked on a 95- year-to-life term for Jose Zapien, now 25.
Zapien — who was admonished by the judge to "stop smiling" during victim impact statements in his sentencing hearing — was convicted Nov. 12 of two counts of murder for the gang-related Feb. 28, 2006, shooting death of 15- year-old high school athlete Eddie Lopez and the Dec. 27, 2006, killing of Miguel Martin, 20.
Lopez was shot to death as he and two friends were eating snacks outside a liquor store, and Martin was killed while walking with friends through a park parking lot.
Jurors also found Zapien guilty of 12 counts of attempted murder for shootings — in which one person was struck by gunfire — between September 2004 and October 2006 in Santa Monica.
Authorities believe Zapien committed the bulk of the crimes in retaliation for the 2004 shooting death of a fellow gang member by a rival Santa Monica gang member.
Zapien, who was 17 at the time of Lopez's killing, was arrested in January 2007 and has remained jailed since then.
"In this spree of crimes, the defendant stole two lives and damaged and risked so many others," Deputy District Attorney Andrew Cooper said, telling the judge that Zapien's "strongest and most despicable trait" is his "lack of reverence for human life."
Lopez's brother said his mother can hold her head high "because she knows she had a great son."
"You don't even know how much it took away," he said of his brother's killing. "He was thinking about a future and helping out my mom and going places," the victim's brother said.