DURHAM, N.C. -- A Texas man who was in Durham for a funeral during the summer of 2011 was found guilty Thursday of first-degree murder in the shooting death of an all-star high school football player from Pennsylvania.
Gabriel James Gamez, 24, of San Antonio was sentenced to life in prison without possibility for parole for killing Darrell Turner Jr., who played football for Gateway High School in Monroeville.
Mr. Turner, 18, was in Durham with a group of teammates on June 23, 2011, when the confrontation with Mr. Gamez occurred.
Mr. Gamez contended the players threatened him and said he acted in self-defense.
Prosecutors argued that Mr. Gamez was the aggressor.
Mr. Turner and teammate Thomas Woodson, 15, were part of a group of Gateway football players visiting Duke University and the University of North Carolina. They had stopped there on their way to a football camp in Florida.
Just before the shooting, the teens, according to testimony, had finished eating at a restaurant and were walking back to their hotel, eating peanuts and talking with each other.
The players said Mr. Gamez goaded them, calling out to them and uttering a racial slur. They said they started running when Mr. Gamez raised his shirt and brandished a gun from his waistband,
Mr. Turner, according to the medical examiner, was shot in the back.
Some of the players said they did not see what happened because they were running when Mr. Turner was hit by a bullet.
Thomas Woodson was struck in the leg by a bullet but his injuries were neither life threatening nor career-ending. This winter, Thomas committed to play at Akron after the Arizona Wildcats settled on a different quarterback and withdrew an earlier offer.
Mr. Gamez was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury in the Woodson case.
Mr. Gamez, who showed little emotion when the eight-woman, four-man jury returned the verdicts, also was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon for four other players: Jaylon Christopher Coleman, Dustin Shane Creel, Robert Lee Foster and Isaiah Thomas Faulk.
The jury did not find Mr. Gamez guilty of attempted murder in those five cases, though prosecutors had charged him with that.
Jurors left the courthouse Thursday without elaborating on their deliberations over three days.
Prosecutors offered no direct motive for the shooting. They suggested, though, that race played a role in the confrontation and added that the players did nothing wrong.
One of the witnesses during the trial, a restaurant worker whom Mr. Gamez had encountered during his stay in Durham, recalled a conversation that highlighted the factor race played.
The restaurant worker said Mr. Gamez told her that he did not like North Carolina, that there were too many African-Americans. The worker said Mr. Gamez told her he would shoot any black person who said anything to him or his family. Mr. Turner was black.
Mr. Gamez took the stand in his defense. He offered no explanation after the verdict.
His attorney, a public defender, gave immediate notice of plans to appeal.mobilehome - breaking - neigh_east
First Published May 2, 2013 9:30 PM