Corona, CA: Gang Member Convicted of Killing Youth at Corona Party

A gang member who fatally shot a 13-year-old Corona boy during an attack on celebrants at a "Sweet 16" birthday party was convicted today of first-degree murder and other charges.

Jurors deliberated a week before finding Lewis Gray guilty of the murder count, as well as attempted voluntary manslaughter, conspiracy and shooting at an inhabited dwelling, and jurors found true special circumstance allegations of killing for the benefit of a street gang and having committed a prior murder.

The penalty phase of Gray's trial will begin Monday. Jurors will have to decide whether to recommend death or life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 31-year-old defendant.

According to trial testimony, the defendant gunned down Daveon Lee while firing into a crowd outside a house on Kilworth Drive on Oct. 12, 2002.

Daveon was among 150 youths celebrating a friend's birthday when Gray and two cohorts crashed the party.

The men, members of the Los Angeles-based "Hoover 94" street gang, had gone to the location searching for a 17-year-old boy, Brian Williams, whom Gray wanted to beat up, according to testimony.

Williams was DJ-ing the birthday party, and Gray and his accomplices snuck inside and pounced on the teen, knocking him to the ground before adult chaperones intervened, ordering all the partygoers to leave.

A witness, then-16-year-old Brittany Baltazar, testified that as she was leaving the party through an open garage door, she spotted the defendant pulling a handgun from under his shirt, at which point she bolted, while gunfire erupted behind her.

According to Riverside County Deputy District Attorney John Aki, Gray and five co-defendants fired at least 20 rounds at the house, striking only Daveon, who was shot in the back of the head.

Aki said the gang members went looking for Williams to exact revenge for a humiliating episode that occurred six months earlier at a high school graduation party in the same area.

Gray was kicked out of that party, and lost his Raiders jersey and shoes while fleeing the location, according to the prosecutor.

Williams took the articles and exhibited them to friends "like a trophy," Aki said.

He said Gray was joined by 10 other Hoover and "C-9" Crips gang members on the night of the shooting.

Along with the Gray and his brother, Mario, the following individuals were tracked down, arrested and charged in connection with the case within months: Benjamin Rodarial Abercrombie, Cedrick Corvel Brewer, Tavares Scott, Wesley Young and Colbe Dante Williams.

Mario Gray, Scott and Young were convicted in 2006 of murder and numerous other felonies. All received life prison sentences.

Brewer pleaded guilty in June 2006 to voluntary manslaughter and is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 18.

Abercrombie and Williams are slated to be tried early next year.

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