Arraignment postponed in athlete's killing

March 25, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Arraignment was postponed Tuesday for a 19-year-old reputed gang member charged in the March 2 shooting death of a standout Los Angeles High School football player.Family members and friends of 17-year-old Jamiel Shaw Jr. -- many wearing T-shirts with the victim's photo -- were in the downtown Los Angeles courtroom for the brief hearing for Pedro Espinoza, whose arraignment was rescheduled for April 9.

At least one woman was also in court on behalf of Espinoza, who is charged with murder in the killing of the 17-year-old Shaw in the 2100 block of Fifth Avenue, not far from the Shaw family's Arlington Heights home.

The charge includes the special circumstance allegation that the defendant was "an active participant in a criminal street gang and the murder was carried out to further the activities of the criminal street gang."

The criminal complaint also alleges that Espinoza personally discharged a handgun.

Prosecutors are expected to decide later whether to seek the death penalty against Espinoza, who was arrested March 7 and charged March 11 just before Shaw's funeral.

Espinoza is being held without bail.

According to police, Shaw was three blocks from his home at about 8:30 p.m. when Espinoza and another suspect pulled up in a white compact.

Espinoza got out of the vehicle and asked Shaw, "Where are you from?" -- meaning what gang -- before he opened fire, police said. Shaw was shot twice.

The shooting occurred just one day after Espinoza had been released from county jail, where he had been serving time for assault with a deadly weapon, said LAPD Detective Mark Holguin.

Shaw lived in an area known to be the territory of the Bloods but was not associated with any gang, according to police.

Shaw, a running back, was named his team's and the Southern League's Most Valuable Player in 2007 and had drawn the interest of recruiters from Stanford and Rutgers.

The teen's mother, Army Sgt. Anita Shaw, was serving in Iraq when her son was slain.

U.S. immigration officials have said Espinoza, a suspected member of the 18th Street gang, may have been in the country illegally. There was no immediate explanation why he was not detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on being released by the county.

 

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