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Gang member convicted in killing of football star Jamiel Shaw Jr.

May 9, 2012 |  3:56 pm


A gang member has been convicted in the 2008 shooting death of a high school football star who was mistaken for a rival gang member because of a red Spider-Man backpack.

Pedro Espinoza, 23, was charged with first-degree murder  in the slaying of 17-year-old Jamiel Shaw Jr., who was shot on the street three doors from his Arlington Heights home. Espinoza allegedly asked Shaw for his gang affiliation -- "Where are you from?" -- then shot him before he could respond, in what a prosecutor said was an "execution"-manner.

Jurors found true additional allegations that Espinoza acted in association with a criminal gang -- the 18th Street gang -- and that he used a firearm. He was not charged with a hate crime.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty; jurors will decide at the end of a separate phase of the trial whether he should receive capital punishment.

Espinoza, who had a shaved head at the time of the shooting, sat in the trial with his hair slicked back and wearing dark-rimmed glasses and a suit. Prosecutors noted that he had tattooed on the side of his neck the letters "BK" -- which they contended stood for "Blood Killer."

When he spotted the teenager walking home, Espinoza believed Shaw to be a Bloods gang member because he was black and carrying the red bag, prosecutors argued at trial. Driving away from the scene, he boasted "I'm a killer," they said.

An attorney for Espinoza called the prosecution's case "weak," citing inconsistent descriptions between witnesses about what the shooter wore, and an eyewitness' failure to identify his client.


A youth 'on track' until fatal gunfire

D.A. says skin color, backpack led to Jamiel Shaw's slaying

Slain LA athlete mistaken for a gang member, prosecutor says

-- Victoria Kim at Los Angeles County Superior Court