Two of the four young men who assaulted and shot an Edison High teacher in a classroom nearly five years ago were sentenced Friday to lengthy terms in state prison.
All four were 16 or 17 years old when they attacked teacher Steven Guerrero on the evening of Dec. 19, 2013, hitting him in the head with a weight and shooting him twicebefore he wrestled the gun away from the shooter.
The youths were members of the Brown Kings Norteno street gang, a prosecutor said later.
They ran away from the crime scene, but police tracked them down five days later and arrested them. All four were prosecuted as adults and they turned 21 behind bars at the Fresno County Jail.
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Judge Michael Idiart sentenced Jose Alfredo Zinzun Jr., 21, to 11 years and four months in state prison as part of a deal between Zinzun’s lawyer, Gerald Schwab, and the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office in exchange for Zinzun pleading no contest last month to attempted robbery using a gun.
Schwab said his client was the least culpable of the four defendants because Zinzun did not enter the classroom where the attack occurred, didn’t hold a weapon and confessed early.
In handing down the sentence, Idiart said Zinzun could have gotten as much as 13 year and 8 months in state prison. “It’s a fair sentence,” the judge said.
Zinzun will get credit for approximately five years in jail to date but must serve 85% of his sentence. He must also pay a $1,000 fine and put $3,549 into a victim’s compensation fund.
In a hushed courtroom, the victim read a statement that he was shot twice and suffered a blow to the head.
“I thought it was only a matter of time before I died,” Guerrero said.
“As a result of these crimes, I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD and I still suffer from episodes of PTSD today,” he said. “This incident has inflicted on me so much mental and physical suffering.”
He has returned to work, likes helping young people learn about sports medicine and always tries to be a role model, but he’s frequently hyper-sensitive and hyper-vigilant, he said.
“I have not been able to fully recover from all my injuries,” Guerrero said. “It’s mentally wearing on me like a ton of bricks.”
The incident slowed down his career, he said.
The judge expressed sympathy.
“No individual, particularly a teacher, should have to deal with that situation,” Idiart said.
The judge also handed down a sentence for Nicholas Padilla, 21, of 13 years in prison. He must serve 85 percent of the sentence but gets credit for time in jail. Like Zinzun, Padilla must pay a fine and put money into a victim’s compensation fund.
Idiart told both young men to “reflect” on what happened while in prison and to take advantage of educational programs in prison.
Sentencings for fellow defendants Jaime Gonzalez, 22, and Gilberto Ramos, 21, are scheduled for Nov. 16.
According to a Fresno Bee news article at the time, Guerrero, then age 30, was packing up to head home on a Thursday night when he saw four young men — two of them armed — standing in his classroom’s doorway. He had just been hired that year by Edison High. He began working for Fresno Unified in 2009 as a substitute teacher.
One of the suspects asked, “Do you want to get shot?” and then took out a handgun. Guerrero’s first reaction was to let the young men take the laptop computer they had come to steal, and to let them leave.
Guerrero told police he backed away, allowing one of the suspects to grab the laptop. The suspect turned to leave, but not before another suspect swung a 25-pound weight that struck Guerrero in the head.
Even though he was dazed by the blow, Guerrero decided to fight back. He knocked the handgun and laptop out of the suspect’s hands and they struggled to grab the gun, but the suspect got to it first.
“The handgun was discharged six times. Two of those rounds struck the victim,” Deputy Police Chief Pat Farmer told reporters.
Guerrero, shot in his stomach and right leg, eventually overpowered the suspect, who fled with the others. The handgun and the laptop were recovered at the school.