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Venice Gangsters Jailed for Virgina Park Murder

Patrick Dwight Birdsong Jr., Sean Alex Mermer, Taaj Zakee Martin, and Norman Lovan Cole received sentences ranging from 50 to 90 years for the murder of an Olympic High grad in 2009.

Venice Gangsters Jailed for Virgina Park Murder Venice Gangsters Jailed for Virgina Park Murder

This story was originally published 9 p.m. Feb. 29. It was updated with new information March 1.

Four alleged gangsters convicted of gunning down a young alumnus of a local high school at a bus stop near in 2009 have been sentenced for the murder.

Patrick Dwight Birdsong Jr., Sean Alex Mermer, Taaj Zakee Martin, and Norman Lovan Cole received sentences ranging from 50 to 90 years for the Nov. 3, 2009 slaying of Richard Manuel Juarez.

The 20-year-old victim was with three  students, when at about 8:30 p.m., Birdsong and Martin approached from Pico Boulevard and opened fire. Juarez's three friends escaped without injury, according to published reports.

Police said the gunmen fled toward a getaway car manned by two accomplices, later identified as Mermer and Cole. All four were arrested that night after an officer heard the gunshots and saw the assailants running.

Mermer drove the pair to the scene and Cole was the front-seat passenger. The defendants are members of the Venice Shoreline Crips, Los Angeles County District Attorney spokeswoman Shiara Dávila-Morales said.

The four men were convicted of one count each of first-degree murder and attempted willful, deliberate and premeditated murder. Birdsong, Martin and Cole also were convicted of a single count of street terrorism according to the D.A.'s office.

Martin, 20; Cole, 36; and Mermer, 31; were sentenced Feb. 21. Birdsong, 21, was the last defendant to be sentenced on Tuesday.

Birdsong and Martin each got 90 years in prison while Mermer and Cole received 50-year sentences, according to Lewis.

Juarez graduated from Olympic High School. Shortly after his murder, a teacher there told the Santa Monica Daily Press that he was an avid drawer and a loyal friend with a big smile.

The shooting happened within hours of another slaying of a young man in Venice's Oakwood neighborhood.


Correction:
an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the date of the shooting.

Additional details about the case will be posted as they become available.

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