NEW YORK (AP) — A 23-year-old convicted of robbing and shooting a man to death, and later seriously wounding a New York City police officer in an attempt to evade capture was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison.
Luis Ortiz looked down and said nothing as the verdict was read. He was convicted July 3 of shooting Shannon McKinney six times on Jan. 1, 2012, and later firing on Sgt. Kevin Brennan with the same revolver, striking him in the head in an attempt to escape. Jurors took only three hours to render a verdict.
Justice Albert Tomei said he hoped the sentencing would send a message to those involved in the culture of gun violence in the country.
"It is causing America to eat its young and tear apart the very fabric of society," he said.
Ortiz did not speak. His attorney asked for leniency, saying his client was 21 when the shootings happened, and he had no one at home to teach him the right way. "In 10 years, he'll be a different person," attorney John Burke said.
Brennan suffered mild brain damage from the bullet, which caused a loss of some peripheral vision. He was promoted after the shooting to sergeant. On Tuesday, he said his life is forever altered.
"I have a daily reminder of that night — bullet fragments lodged in my head. They're not going anywhere," he said, adding he will never know when they could shift and cause his death.
The courtroom was packed with Brennan's fellow officers and friends and family, and members of McKinney's family. His brother, Tyronne Peterson, wrote a short statement that was read aloud in court by Assistant District Attorney Melissa Caravajal.
"My family will never be the same again," he wrote. "He didn't just kill Shannon McKinney, he killed my entire family."
Surveillance footage showed Ortiz robbing McKinney, then firing on the unarmed man, emptying the revolver of six rounds. But there were no shell casings recovered.
About a month later, Brennan and two other plainclothes officers were responding to a report of shots fired at a public housing development when they encountered three people running from a building.
Ortiz, known as "Baby," was among those who fled and Brennan pursued him around the back of the building at the Bushwick Houses development, where the two squeezed through an open emergency exit before it shut behind them. The two other officers who responded with Brennan were stuck outside.
Surveillance video showed Brennan in a headlock, then being shot in an alcove and lying unmoving while the suspect flees.
Assistant District Attorney Lewis Leiberman said Ortiz fired because he had the evidence of McKinney's murder in his hand.
He yelled an obscenity and said "die" to the officer, Leiberman said.
There was no time to send Brennan to the operating room so doctors pulled the bullet from his head in the emergency room. The officer was hospitalized and has since returned to the job, but he said daily life can be a struggle following his injury. Outside court he said he was pleased with the sentence.
Before the trial, when he was walking prosecutors through the scene where he was shot, Brennan and his former partner spotted a suspect wanted for armed robbery. As the two approached the suspect, he noticed another man was hiding something and shielding his body against a fence.
Brennan said he searched the man and found a 9mm handgun in his waistband. The suspects were arrested on robbery and weapons charges.