Two southwest Fresno gang members were convicted Tuesday in Fresno County Superior Court of felony charges in connection with the drive-by shooting and wounding of a 14-year-old boy as he tried to protect his younger brother in southwest Fresno last summer.
Eric Major, 15, was found guilty of assault with a firearm. D’Edward Tucker, 20, was found guilty of being an accessory to a felony and allowing someone to shoot from his vehicle.
Jurors said the two defendants did their crimes for the benefit of a street gang in order to promote criminal activity.
Major was tried as adult because of the seriousness of the crime. The victim, Jeremiah Hawkins, was shot in the jaw. The bullet went through his jaw and grazed the side of his neck.
A third defendant, Jaishawn Young, 22, was allowed to pleaded guilty during the trial to assault. In exchange, Young will be sentenced to seven years in prison, said defense attorney Linden Lindahl, who represents Young.
A fourth defendant, a minor, was tried in Juvenile Court. He was convicted of possession of a firearm, court records say.
A jury of seven women and five men said the defendants did their crimes for the benefit of a street gang.
Major was facing about 66 years to life in prison because he was charged with attempted murder, said Fresno defense lawyer Charles Magill, who represented Major. But the jury of seven women and five men found Major not guilty of attempted murder and not guilty of the lesser charge of attempted voluntary manslaughter.
Major now faces up to 9 years in a juvenile correctional prison, Magill said.
Tucker’s attorney, Marina Pincus, said her client faces seven years in prison. In announcing its verdict, jurors found Tucker not guilty of assault with a firearm.
The shooting happened around 11 p.m. July 7, 2015, in a neighborhood near Fink-White Playground.
Hawkins was walking near Modoc and Amador streets when a car drove up to him and his younger brother and two other people, prosecutor Ryan Wells said during the trial.
Hawkins testified someone in the light-colored sedan asked him, “Where are you from?” He interpreted the phase to mean “What do you bang?” or what gang are you affiliated with.
The victim testified he didn’t know who shot him. He told police the shooter had dreadlocks.
When the victim stepped in front of his younger brother to protect him, two people stood up through the sunroof of the car and pointed guns at him. Once gunfire erupted, Hawkins said he ran toward his home. Once he got home, he realized he had been shot and his mother called 911.
Nine minutes later, officers pulled over a newer-model Mercedes and arrested Young, Tucker, Major and the other minor. Officers located a revolver, semiautomatic pistol and Ruger rifle inside the car.
Wells said Major told police he did the shooting. Magill, however, said his client confessed after being grilled by police and because he wanted to protect his friends from being charged.
During the trial, defense lawyers said the defendants were driving around that night, searching to buy marijuana; they did not plan a gang-related assault. Major testified he didn’t stand up through the sunroof and shoot the victim, Magill said.
Hawkins testified that he didn’t know who shot him. He told police the shooter had dreadlocks, Magill said.
When the defendants were arrested after the shooting, they all had close-cropped hair, Magill said. The only one in the car with dreadlocks, Magill said, was the minor who took a plea deal in Juvenile Court. The minor was called as a witness in Major’s and Tucker’s trial, but he asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Magill said.
Judge James Petrucelli will sentence Young on Sept. 20. Major and Tucker will be sentenced on Oct. 11.