Two gang members involved in dispute with a rival gang resulting in a shooting that killed one teen and wounded another were each sentenced to 50 years in prison on Feb. 13.
Gregory Calas, 21, of 228th Street in St. Albans, and Nnonso Ekwegbalu, 19, of 183rd Street in Springfield Gardens, were convicted last November following a six-week jury trial.
The victims — Kevin Miller, 13, who was killed, and Pedro Garcia, 17, who was wounded — were innocent bystanders not involved in the dispute, according to the Queens District Attorney’s Office.
“I knew the bullet wasn’t intended for my son, but they intended to kill someone,” Miller’s mother, Donna Hood, said Feb. 14. “It’s so reckless.”
Calas was convicted of first-degree manslaughter, second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, second-degree assault and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon. Ekwegbalu — whose case was heard by a separate jury — was convicted of first-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault, second-degree assault and one count of criminal possession of a weapon.
The violence occurred at around 3:15 p.m. on Oct. 22, 2009, near the corner of Linden Blvd. and 208th Street.
Calas pulled out a handgun and fired in the direction of three members of the rival Bloods gang with whom he had just had a physical altercation, according to the Queens DA. Ekwegbalu, then 16, a student at Humanities and the Arts Magnet High School in Cambria Heights, also was armed and fired his weapon, Brown said.
Miller, a freshman at the same school, was headed to a nearby McDonald’s to grab a bite to eat when a stray bullet hit him in the head. He was taken to North Shore University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
“What makes me so mad is it doesn’t make any sense,” Hood said. “Why did they have to get a gun? Why did they have to escalate the fight like that? My son died for nothing.”
Garcia, an employee of a carwash in the vicinity, was also struck, the bullet entering his thigh, but he survived.
“Without the slightest regard for human life, the defendants recklessly turned the streets of Queens County into a deadly battleground that claimed the life of an innocent young student walking home from school and wounded a second hardworking teenager,” Queens DA Richard Brown said in a prepared statement. “The lengthy prison sentence imposed today is more than justified and sends a strong message to others who might think of resorting to gunfire to settle disputes.
Hood said she is satisfied with the sentence, but doesn’t believe the apologies offered by the defendants were sincere.
“They made poor choices,” Hood said, “And they need to think about what they’ve done.”
With her son’s killers now set to serve lengthy prison terms, Hood hopes to be able to move on with her life. She is keeping her son’s memory alive through a nonprofit organization that she started in his name in 2010 called the KLM Jr. Foundation, which gives college scholarships to high school students.