A teenager, who is a reputed gang member, pleaded guilty this week to first-degree murder for firing shots that killed a 23-month-old boy in West Oakland in 2011. Frederick Coleman, 18, entered his plea in Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday for the death of baby Hiram Lawrence Jr. in exchange for prosecutors agreeing to dismiss the multiple lesser charges against him, according to Deputy District Attorney Ben Beltramo.
Those charges were six counts of attempted murder and gang enhancement clauses that allege that he fired the shots to benefit a criminal street gang. Coleman will receive a term of life in prison when he’s sentenced on April 17, but he’ll be eligible for parole after 25 years, Beltramo said. Reached by phone at his office Friday afternoon, Coleman’s attorney, Alameda County Assistant Public Defender Richard Foxall, said he was too busy to comment on Coleman’s case.
Authorities allege that Coleman was one of three men who opened fire on a group of people who were filming a music video at Seventh and Willow streets at about 6 p.m. on Nov. 28, 2011. Hiram, an innocent bystander who police said wasn’t the intended target, was struck in the head and died 11 days later after he was taken off life support. The other two suspected shooters, Dionte Huff, 33, also known as “Birdman,” and Houston Nathaniel III, 24, also known as “No No,” are being prosecuted separately in federal court and their cases are still pending.
A member of the Acorn gang, which is based in the Acorn housing project in West Oakland, testified at Coleman’s preliminary hearing last April that Coleman, Huff and Nathaniel all belong to the Acorn gang and they were shooting at members of the rival Lower Bottoms gang. The Acorn member, who asked prosecutors not to disclose his name to the news media, said the two rival gangs had been feuding for about five years.
The man admitted that he was the driver for the suspects in the shooting and said he had reluctantly agreed to participate because he feared the others might kill him if he refused. The gang member has pleaded guilty in federal court to murder, six counts of attempted murder, participating in a racketeering conspiracy to benefit a gang and other charges. The man testified that he could face up to life in prison but the judge in his case won’t decide on his sentence until after he finishes testifying against all the other defendants.
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