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Santa Ana gang member gets life in teen's death

April 20, 2012 |  4:12 pm

A Santa Ana gang member was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Friday for his role in the 2010 death of a 16-year-old who was shot in the back as he fled semiautomatic gunfire, the Orange County district attorney's office said.

Sarith Yin, 25, was found guilty in January of murder, street terrorism and being a felon in possession of a firearm, with sentencing enhancements for the crime's connection to a street gang. The sentence adds 30 years on top of life without parole.

Yin had been convicted of street terrorism and second-degree burglary, among other offenses, in recent years.

Prosecutors said Yin and John Saway were dispatched by fellow gang members after a confrontation between gang members and a group of teenagers in Tustin on Jan. 10, 2010.

Yin and Saway, 25, drove to Tustin from Santa Ana, armed with semiautomatic weapons. The teens fled to nearby apartments, prosecutors said, but two others -- Carlos Rodriguez, 16, and an unidentified 16-year-old girl -- tried to hide behind a tree.

Prosecutors said Saway approached the tree and began shooting at the two, while Yin provided cover. As the teens tried to flee, prosecutors allege, Saway shot Rodriguez in the back and the bullet pierced his heart.

A man in one of the nearby apartments came outside with a rifle and began shooting at Saway and Yin, allowing a window for the young woman to escape. Yin fired back as the pair fled to a getaway car.

Saway faces charges of murder, street terrorism, possession of a firearm by a felon, attempted murder and assault with a firearm -- with the sentencing enhancements for gang-related crimes. He has prior convictions for vehicle theft and being a felon with a gun.

Prosecutors said Saway's trial is scheduled to begin next week.

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-- Rick Rojas

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