A hardcore gang member was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 2006 murders of a popular Santa Monica High School student and a man he shot in Virginia Avenue Park, a Los Angeles County Superior Court clerk confirmed Thursday.
Jose Zapien, 25, shot Eduardo “Eddie” Lopez, 15, as he walked with his friends on Pico Boulevard near 26th Street.
Two days after Christmas, Zapien shot Miguel Martin, 22, in the back, killing him, as he tried to run away.
Zapien is also convicted of 12 attempted murders in 2004 and 2006.
The Santa Monica Police Department worked with Los Angeles Police Department officers to solve the murders.
“I definitely appreciate all the hard work that the Santa Monica Police Department put into this case,” said Angie Christides, who prosecuted the case along with Deputy District Attorney Andrew Cooper.
Christides said that Zapien was lucky that he was 17 years old, a minor, when he committed the first murder.
“Frankly, I think the sentence is long overdue,” she said. “He is essentially a serial killer and it was an appropriate sentencing.”
Zapien laughed in the courtroom, according to the Los Angeles Times. He smiled at Armita Lopez, the mother of the slain Eddie Lopez, as she gave a four-sentence speech, the Times reported.
“I was waiting for this day because it was not fair that they killed my son,” Lopez told the court, according to the Times.
On Zapien’s hairline was a tattoo reading “Sotel,” the West Los Angeles-based gang of which he is a member, the Times reported. Judge George Lomeli rebuked Zapien for smiling during Lopez’s statement.
Zapien was convicted in November after a two-week trial. The jury deliberated for five hours.
While gangs aren’t as prevalent in Santa Monica as they are in many areas of Los Angeles, their presence has been consistent in the city by the sea. Zapien’s Sotel gang has had numerous run-ins with the Santa Monica 13, an offshoot of the MS-13 gang.