By Terri Vermeulen Keith
LONG BEACH, Calif. – A man was sentenced Wednesday to 50 years to life in state prison in connection with the apparent gang-related shooting death of an innocent bystander who was struck by gunfire in Long Beach.
Superior Court Judge James Otto tacked on an additional 17 years and eight months in prison for Tyquan Benson, 28, of Long Beach, who was convicted July 21 of first-degree murder and other charges stemming from the Dec. 4, 2019, shooting that left Alejandra Martinez dead.
Benson was also convicted of one count each of attempted murder, assault with a semiautomatic firearm, shooting from a motor vehicle and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He had a prior conviction from 2014 for burglary.
Co-defendant Jacquise Wright, 33, is awaiting trial on the same counts after a mistrial was declared in his case because of a personal emergency for his attorney.
Detectives believe a gang-related dispute escalated into a shooting and that “the victim was not the intended target,” according to a statement released by the Long Beach Police Department shortly after the shooting.
A female juvenile was also struck in the upper body, but recovered, police said.
The judge called the events “totally unnecessary” and “a terrible crime,” saying that Benson is going to have to live with “the consequences of those bad choices.”
Martinez, a 36-year-old mother of three, had stopped at a taco truck after work when she was fatally shot in a parking lot near Magnolia Avenue and Anaheim Street, according to Deputy District Attorney Robert Song.
“Because of Mr. Benson and Mr. Wright, she is dead,” the prosecutor told the judge.
Song noted that the courtroom account late Tuesday of the victim’s husband about being left to raise their children by himself was “heart- wrenching.”
Defense attorney Theida Salazar said Benson “never went there seeking out any confrontation” and described his client as a “young man fearful for his own safety.”
“He was not there to take a life. He was there to eat,” Salazar told the judge, noting earlier that Benson was 1 1/2 years old when he lost his biological father to murder and that his client was diagnosed in 2003 with psychotic disorder, hallucinations and anti-social behavior.
Benson’s attorney noted that the explanation of Benson’s biographical background was not being offered to “make excuses” but rather to ensure that the judge knew the “totality of the circumstances.”
Wright and Benson were arrested about 2 1/2 months after the shooting and have remained behind bars since then.
Outside court after the sentencing, Benson’s attorney called it a “very unfortunate situation,” noting that a family had lost a mother and wife and that his client had been sentenced to “what inevitably could be a life sentence regardless of the numbers.”
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