Life In Prison For Man Convicted In Shooting Death Of Oceanside Cop - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Life In Prison For Man Convicted In Shooting Death Of Oceanside Cop

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A gang member who was 17 when he shot and killed an Oceanside police officer in his crime-ridden neighborhood was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 61 years.

Meki Gaono was convicted April 20 of first-degree murder, murder of a peace officer and lying in wait for the Dec. 20, 2006, killing of 25-year-old Oceanside police Officer Dan Bessant.

Jurors also convicted Gaono of assault on a peace officer for shooting at Officer Karina Pina and found true an allegation that the defendant committed the crimes for the benefit of a street gang.

Sentencing was handed down by Vista Superior Court Judge Runston Maino.

Because of his age at the time of the murder, Gaono was not eligible for the death penalty, said Deputy District Attorney Tom Manning.

The prosecutor told the jury that Gaono shot Bessant -- a married father of a young child -- without provocation.

Manning said Gaono, now 20, and two fellow gang members -- Penifoti Taeotui and Jose Compre Jr. -- waited 16 minutes before firing their weapons from 386 feet away as Pina and Bessant conducted a traffic stop.

Bessant was hit in the arm pit -- just under his protective vest -- with a single shot from a scope rifle.

Defense attorney William Stone said Gaono was nowhere near the scene of the killing, despite a videotaped confession.

Gaono was raised by his grandfather and was counseled by Bessant's father, Steve, when he attended El Camino High School and a continuation school in Oceanside and Steve Bessant was an assistant principal and principal at the two schools.

Taeotui was convicted of murder in a separate trial and sentenced to life in prison even though he didn't fire the shot that killed Bessant. Charges against Compre were dismissed after a preliminary hearing for lack of evidence.

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