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Santa Rosa man gets life sentence for gang slaying

  • 12/29/2010: B1:
    4/11/2009: A1: Victim: Luis Suarez: Died at the shooting scene in South Park area.
    4/8/2009: A1: Luis Suarez
    PC: Luis Suarez, in a family photo, killed Monday night in a drive-by shooting on Grand Avenue in Santa Rosa.

A 23-year-old Santa Rosa man was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for gunning down a rival gang member on a South Park neighborhood street in 2009.

Jurors convicted Fernando Mendoza of killing Luis Suarez, 18, also of Santa Rosa in an escalating dispute over gang turf.

A police officer testified Mendoza confronted Suarez near the intersections of Grand and Pressley avenues after he thought Suarez was "mad-dogging" him. He shot him once and stood over the fallen man as he fired three more bullets into his body.

Mendoza was caught after one of his friends bragged about killing Suarez and then recanted under questioning from police.

After the killing, Mendoza received tattoos labeling him a Norteno killer. A letter he sent from jail was signed "asesino" or assassin.

Mendoza was convicted in December after a five-week trial. His bid for a re-trial was rejected earlier this year.

He received an additional 25-year-to-life sentence for use of a gun along with a one-year enhancement for serving time in prison before the shooting.

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