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Saturday, 5 May 2012

Yakima gang member known as "Little Maniac" will serve up to three years for shooting a grandmother and her grandson

13:39 |

Yakima gang member known as "Little Maniac" will serve up to three years for shooting a grandmother and her grandson, and for a separate shooting incident involving a 6-year-old girl. The 54-year-old woman and her grandson were walking home from a grocery store on Sept. 27, 2011, when they were confronted on East F Street in Yakima by a group of four youths, police said. The pair told detectives one of the youths began shooting at them. The woman was struck three times, once each in the arm, hand and leg. Her grandson was shot once in the abdomen. Both survived. Court records show Preston Benjamin Meza, who is 15 now but was 14 when the attacks occurred, entered Alford pleas Friday in juvenile court to two counts of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon. For his plea, Yakima County Superior Court Judge Susan Hahn sentenced the teenager to between two and 2 1/2 years in a juvenile facility. He also will serve an additional six months because the crime involved a firearm. The sentences are near the top of the range for a juvenile convicted of the charges. He was given credit for 219 days time served. An Alford plea means he did not admit guilt, but agreed he'd likely be found guilty in a trial. It has the same effect as a guilty plea. Early on, prosecutors had sought to try Meza as an adult at the recommendation of juvenile probation officials. It was not immediately clear Friday what factors resulted in the decision to resolve the case in juvenile court. As a juvenile, Meza faced a range of up to three years. As an adult, he faced a minimum sentence of 13 1/2 years in prison. Quinten Bowman, the deputy prosecutor who handled the case, did not return several messages Friday afternoon from the Yakima Herald-Republic seeking comment. Neither did Meza's attorney, Marty Dixon. Meza had a criminal record that included a residential burglary conviction when he was arrested for the September shooting. After his arrest in that case, ballistics linked Meza to a shooting that occurred a month earlier. In that shooting, which wounded the 6-year-old girl for which Meza also was sentenced, someone opened fire at the back of a house in the 200 block of North Ninth Street on Aug. 25. Several shots penetrated the building, including one that grazed the neck of the girl inside. Prosecutors announced at the time that they would seek to have Meza remanded as an adult after juvenile probation officials said the suspect had an escalating history as a La Raza Norteo gang member and appeared to be beyond rehabilitation, according to an eight-page report prepared by a probation intake officer. The report said Meza had gone from a grade-schooler who was eager to learn to a thug by middle school who actively recruited classmates into gangs. The report said that in October 2009, while a student at Washington Middle School, Meza beat a younger student so badly the child was taken to the hospital.

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