A Richmond gang member will spend 50 years to life in prison for the murder of a beloved community volunteer who prosecutors say was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Derrick Cooper, 20, was sentenced in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez today for his role in the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Lincoln Plair on March 4, 2013, in Richmond. Two co-defendants, 20-year-old Antwone Johnson and James Green, 19, are awaiting trial for their roles in the killing.
Prosecutors say the three defendants, who are members of the North Richmond gang known as the Swerve Team, shot Plair in broad daylight while he was washing a car in the 100 block of Sixth Street. A fight had apparently broken out between rival gang members in North Richmond, and the trio got into a car and headed to Central Richmond and retaliated by shooting Plair, whom they knew lived in the neighborhood, according to Deputy District Attorney Satish Jallepalli. As soon as shots were fired, Plair quickly moved two children playing next to him out of the way and was shot multiple times, according to prosecutors.
“His words foretold his fate,” said Judge Patricia Scanlon, referencing a recording of the victim played in court this morning in which he spoke about putting others before himself. “He pushed those children out of the way and died himself,” she said. Relatives and friends of the victim who spoke outside the courtroom this morning said his courageous actions that day represented the way he lived his life.
Toody Maher, founder of the Pogo Park non-profit where Plair worked helping to design and build a new playground in Richmond’s Iron Triangle District, described the victim as a gentle soul who was the main caretaker for his disabled, elderly father and was known for helping out in the neighborhood. “He would stop what he was doing to help a mother carrying groceries,” she recalled. Many of the children he worked with at Pogo Park still talk about him, she said. Maher said, “The kids at the park were really affected” when they learned that Plair had been killed just a couple of blocks from the Elm Playlot, where he visited them daily.
Tanisha Evans, the victim’s sister, said the sentence for one of her brother’s killers brings some closure. “Where we come from, people are just murdered and that’s the end of it,” Evans said. “Even though it doesn’t bring him back, it gives some comfort knowing that the people responsible are being held responsible,” she said. Myzina Dennis, Plair’s cousin, said the sentence gave her a renewed sense of hope in the justice system, although the killing itself was senseless. “We grew with Derrick Cooper…it’s sad it had to come to this,” she said.
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