Suspect in killing at Canoga Park bowling alley wanted bragging rights, prosecutor says
A co-defendant charged with the 2008 murder of a black Canoga Park bowling alley employee was seeking bragging rights and earning his gang moniker “Outlaw” when he willfully participated in the racially motivated crime, a prosecutor told jurors in closing arguments Wednesday.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Daniel Akemon of the Hardcore Gang Division told jurors at the Van Nuys Courthouse that Martin Sotelo helped fellow gang member Richard Bordelon gun down James Shamp “in cold blood because of the color of his skin, in a display of senseless violence and a complete disregard for human life.”
Shamp, 48, a husband and father of two children, was taking out the trash at the Canoga Bowl on Dec. 22, 2008, when a car carrying Latino gang members pulled up, prosecutors said.
Sotelo, 26, was behind the wheel. He stopped the vehicle so Bordelon could take aim like a sniper, striking Shamp “right through the heart,” Akemon said.
The jurors -- six men and six women -- will be asked to decide whether Sotelo willfully conspired to commit murder and targeted Shamp because he was African American.
In addition, Sotelo is charged with one count of attempted robbery of a female victim and one count of evading police, with a special gang allegation. He is accused of being a member of the Canoga Park Alabama gang.
In March 2010, Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Martin Herscovitz sentenced Bordelon to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 47 years to life, after he admitted killing Shamp. He was also ordered to pay $14,386 in restitution for burial expenses and mental health costs incurred by the victim’s family.
On Wednesday, Akemon told jurors that Sotelo and Bordelon were out that December evening looking to earn their respective nicknames of “Outlaw" and "Psycho.” And although they may not have gone to the Canoga Bowl in the 20100 block of Vanowen Street looking for an African American, “they spotted a prize target and that’s when they decided to kill,” Akemon said.
But defense attorney Robert Schwartz argued that his client, who has African American friends and had even dated a black woman, did not harbor prejudice against blacks and was not on the hunt to kill them.
As far as Sotelo understood, he and his companions “were out to pick up some girls," Schwartz told jurors. “But something switched in the mind of Bordelon.”
Bordelon decided he was going to rob somebody to get some spending money, Schwartz said. When the attempted robbery of a young female failed, Bordelon directed Sotelo to the Canoga Bowl, according to Schwartz.
The plan was not to find an African American, but to get some money, Schwartz argued. “How many African Americans would you expect to find at a bowling alley in the San Fernando Valley?” he asked rhetorically.
But Bordelon was not only carrying a gun, he was “carrying a hatred of African Americans,” Schwartz said. And “what transpired is not a premeditated killing but a crime of opportunism. All of a sudden the killing of an African American trumps a robbery.”
Closing arguments are expected to wrap up Thursday.
-- Ann M. Simmons in Van Nuys
Photo: James Shamp Credit: Shamp family