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Two gang members sentenced to life terms for fatal shooting of perceived rival

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Two gang members convicted in the 2009 shooting death of a perceived rival in City Heights were each sentenced Friday to lengthy terms in state prison.

Paul Salinas, 22, and Marco Antonio Firman, 30, were convicted May 13 of first-degree murder and other charges in the slaying of 27-year-old Tomas Ray.

The eight-man, four-woman jury also found gang and gun use allegations to be true and found the defendants guilty of being felons in possession of firearms.

On Friday Judge Peter Deddeh sentenced Firman to 80 years to life plus 17 years in prison. The judge sentenced Salinas to 75 years to life in prison plus 22 years and four months.

The victim was walking by himself on Dec. 28, 2009, when he exchanged words with two men at the intersection of Menlo Avenue and Landis Street, according to police.

Ray -- who was not a gang member -- was shot by Salinas as he crossed the street and died the next day, prosecutor Shawn Tafreshi said in a previous hearing. He said the defendants were put up to the crime by a gang leader who was upset that rivals were coming into the neighborhood.

Deddeh said Firman also had a gun during the murder, even though he didn't use it.

Ray's mother, Diana Hinojos, said her son -- a medical student -- was always trying to help people and had a great sense of humor.

"Tomas made us laugh all the time," she said. "They (the defendants) took that away."

The victim's grandmother cried as she wondered why the defendants didn't just beat up her grandson instead of killing him.

"You didn't have to do that," she told the defendants. Don't kill each other. We're all the same race. I beg you, don't do this anymore."

Deddeh said the defendants were cavalier as they went out "hunting" for rivals the night Ray was killed, calling the crime "shocking and disgusting."

After the murder, Salinas robbed several people at gunpoint, holding the weapon to one man's head, Deddeh said.

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