A Fresno County judge got upset Thursday when one of two men convicted of killing an unarmed man told the victim's father that he "would like to apologize for my alleged actions."
"There's no 'alleged actions,'" Superior Court Judge Arlan Harrell scolded 22-year-old Shawn Lamont Brown. "You were convicted and you're not accepting responsibility. "
Harrell also told Brown that he has never shown remorse or explained why he killed Von Randell Correia Jr., 29, at an east-central Fresno apartment complex in July 2015.
"You've taken (your apology) to the wrong courtroom," said Harrell. "So don't act like this is some kind of error."
Harrell then sentenced Brown to 50 years to life in prison. Earlier, Harrell sentenced Brown's co-defendant, Lachance Larue Thomas, 21, to 26 years to life in prison.
Before the pair was sentenced, Von Correia Sr. told the judge that he had forgiven the two defendants and hoped that they "learn from this" and get their lives in order in prison.
In his apology to the elder Correia, Thomas said, "I'm very sorry for your loss." He didn't avoid his responsibility, other than to say he had no father figure growing up and lacked guidance. Thomas also told Correia that he hoped to one day be a man like him.
In October, a jury found both men guilty of first-degree murder. Prosecutor William Lacy said Thomas got the lesser prison sentence because the jury found Brown had shot Correia while Thomas watched.
Police say Correia was killed at the Ashwood Gardens apartment complex on Shields Avenue near Maple Avenue just after midnight on July 28, 2015.
During the trial, Lacy told the jury that Brown fired six rounds at Correia, who was shot in the back by a ricochet bullet as he ran from the two assailants. Thomas assisted in the killing by arranging it, Lacy told the jury.
Though a motive for the killing was not revealed, Lacy said, residents of the apartment complex heard someone say: "Do you have any trees?" right before the victim was shot. In street talk, "trees" means marijuana, according to police Detective Bartlett Ledbetter, who testified in the trial.
Lacy said fast work by the Fresno Police Department led to the pair's arrest and the recovery of key evidence.
Officer Dominique Comeyne was patroling near Shields and Maple avenues when a silver Dodge Charger darted out of the Ashwood Gardens around 12:15 a.m. on July 28. After residents told the officer to "follow that car," Comeyne chased the Charger.
The car headed west on Shields Avenue toward Highway 168. Once the car got onto the freeway on-ramp, Comeyne pulled the car over, Lacy told the jury. While Comeyne detained Thomas and Brown and the female driver, another officer found a black semi-automatic pistol on the ground near the beginning of the on-ramp, Lacy said.
Ballistic testing later revealed that the six shell casings found at the apartment complex had been fired from the gun, Lacy said. The bullet that killed the victim also was fired from the gun, he said.
Investigators also tested a pair of gloves found in the back seat where Brown was sitting, Lacy said. The gloves had gunshot residue, he said. The driver was not charged because she feared Thomas, who has a reputation for hitting women, the prosecutor said.