Jurors in Redwood City convicted a 19-year-old man of first-degree murder for the shooting death of another teen in 2008.
There was never a question that Ricardo Garcia fatally shot 17-year-old Solomone Zarate during a fight outside a party on Sept. 13, 2008, but jurors had to decide whether the killing was murder or voluntary manslaughter.
"In a way, justice has been served," Zarate's sister 21-year-old Rachel Zarate said outside the courtroom. "But it doesn't change the fact that my brother's not coming back."
Jurors also found true the allegations that Garcia used a firearm and committed the crime in furtherance of a street gang, and convicted him of the special circumstance of committing a murder while a member of a street gang.
He faces life without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced Aug. 13.
Prosecutor Al Giannini called the verdict "appropriate" and said the jury's decision ultimately focused on the legal definitions of murder versus manslaughter.
"The events that surrounded this killing covered a short period of time," Giannini said. "I think the jury had a clear picture of what happened; they only had to decide the legal ramifications of the killing."
According to Giannini, Garcia saw Zarate and one of Garcia's friends -- allegedly rival gang members -- fighting in the street that night outside a party on Columbia Avenue near El Camino Real in North Fair Oaks, an unincorporated pocket of Redwood City.
Garcia jumped in and people began gathering in the street to watch, Giannini said.
At some point, Garcia pulled out a gun. He fired one wild shot that hit the ground, but quickly pulled the trigger again, this time hitting Zarate.
Garcia fled after the shooting but turned himself in to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office several days later. He has been in custody without bail ever since.
Members of Zarate's family gathered outside the courtroom today after the verdict was read and said they planned to visit Zarate's grave this afternoon.
Zarate's aunt, Kim Johnson-Lao, said she is grateful for the jury's decision and that she hopes others will learn from what happened to her nephew.
"A conviction like this should be important to Redwood City," Johnson-Lao said. The fact that jurors decided Zarate's death was murder is a lesson for gang members or kids aspiring to be gang members that "it's not a good idea," she said.
"People will think twice about their actions, even if it's just a simple quarrel," Johnson-Lao said.
Zarate's family is still trying to pay for his burial, and ask those who wish to help to send donations to Margaret Petros, executive director of Mothers Against Murder, with the name Zarate attached. Money can be sent to 425 Grant Ave. #27, Palo Alto, CA, 94306. For more information, call (650) 248-9529.