Two gang members convicted of murder and other charges stemming from a pair of shootings that took place years apart in La Mesa as part of a protracted gang feud were sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Donte Haddock and Anthony Frank, both 28, were convicted in July for the murders of Xusha Brown Jr., 22, on May 5, 2013, and Darris Walker, 20, on April 30, 2011.
Jurors deliberated for one week before finding both men guilty of two counts each of murder and conspiracy to commit murder and one count of attempted murder. The panel also concluded there were special-circumstance allegations of lying in wait, committing multiple murders and discharging a gun out of a vehicle.
A third defendant, 29-year-old Alaeante Eason, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to four years and four months in state prison earlier this year.
Walker was shot several times while sitting in the back seat of a car parked in the lot of a restaurant on Alvarado Road. Deputy District Attorney Sophia Roach told jurors the defendants waited in bushes at the lot, then opened fire on Walker from both sides of the vehicle.
Defense attorneys Jane Kinsey and Richard Jayakumar alleged that Walker was actually killed by Allen Baker, another gang member who was shot and killed by police in the northern California city of Sunnyvale in 2015. Following Baker’s death, two guns were found in his possession matching the calibers of the weapons used to kill Walker. Rather than two gunmen approaching from both sides of the car, the defense alleged that Baker circled the car on his own, firing with both guns.
An incarcerated defense witness also testified that Baker admitted to the killings.
Jayakumar alleged that Frank and Walker were friends and thus had no motive to kill Walker.
Brown, a member of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, was an unintended target, according to the prosecution. He was riding in a car on eastbound Interstate 8 in La Mesa when shots fired from another car struck him in the head and wounded the driver, Malcolm Hune, according to Roach. The car belonged to Haddock, who was driving while Frank emptied a pistol into the vehicle with the intention of killing Hune, she alleged.
The prosecutor said the car could be seen on surveillance footage circling a gas station where Hune and Brown were fueling up just before the shooting. Days afterward, the car was posted for sale on Craigslist, presumably in an attempt to get rid of the evidence, Roach said.
Kinsey conceded that Haddock’s car had been used in the killing, but alleged that he was staying at a woman’s home during the night Brown died. She said Haddock and Hune were friends, and that he would have had no reason to want Hune dead.
Jayakumar said that his client, Frank, was driving the car, but had no idea a shooting was going to occur. Instead, he alleged, Eason was the shooter and front passenger, and tried to take out Hune to increase his standing within the gang, as well as settle a personal score with Hune over a woman.
According to Roach, Frank told some witnesses he killed Brown, while text messages implicated Haddock in the killing.
The prosecutor also introduced cell phone evidence showing that Haddock and Frank’s phones were near the areas of both shootings when the killings occurred. Both defendants’ phones were turned off shortly before the shootings, and turned back on shortly afterwards, according to Roach.
Eason, Haddock and Frank were arrested in 2016.
–City News Service