Bay City News—Two men were sentenced Monday to 11 years in state prison for fatally beating a 59-year-old San Francisco man in downtown Oakland two years ago because they were unhappy with their lives.
Prosecutors said 20-year-old Lavonte Drummer and 19-year-old Dominic Davis had been drinking rum and agreed they would attack someone on the afternoon of April 16, 2010, because they were frustrated and their lives weren't going well.
Drummer and Davis pleaded no contest on Feb. 8 to voluntary manslaughter for the death of Tian Sheng Yu, a home health care worker who died five days after he was punched and knocked to the ground in the 1800 block of Telegraph Avenue, near the Fox Theater, at about 3 p.m. on April 16, 2010. Yu and his son, then 27-year-old Jin Cheng Yu, had driven to Oakland to go to a pawn shop, according to Oakland police.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta said Monday that Yu's death was "truly senseless" and was caused because "Drummer was in a bad mood and took it out on an innocent person."
Panetta said Drummer and Davis each hit Yu once with what she described as "a sucker punch" and he immediately fell on the pavement because he had no time to brace himself for his fall.
"Shockingly, neither defendant tried to help the victim" and instead they fought and injured Yu's son before fleeing the scene, she said.
The case probably never would have been solved if a video camera in the area hadn't captured the attack, which allowed authorities to identify and track down Drummer and Davis, Panetta said.
Drummer and Davis were charged with murder but Panetta said the Alameda County District Attorney's Office agreed to let them plead no contest to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter "to bring the case to a close and to ensure they were held responsible for killing Mr. Yu."
Prosecutor Tim Wellman said if the case had gone to trial and jurors had decided not to convict Drummer and Davis of second-degree murder their only other option would have been to convict them of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of only four years.
Carl Chan, the chair of the Oakland Chinatown Crime Prevention Council and a spokesman for Yu's family, said Yu's widow, Zhi Rui Wang, and son chose not to come to court for the sentencing because "they did not want to re-live the horror" of Yu's death.
Chan said Yu's death "shocked the community because what happened to Mr. Yu could happen to you, to me or anyone." He said Yu's widow "lost her husband and her main financial support" and has to continue working because she now needs to support her son, who had been planning to attend medical school but now is suffering from "serious depression" and is unable to complete his education and work.
Chan said Yu's widow has a simple message for the community: "Let's stop the violence and the killing on the streets and let my family be the last one to suffer."
Panetta said she is "troubled by the lack of remorse by both defendants and their very callous attitudes" about what happened.
But Drummer addressed the court and said, "I apologize to the Yu family for this tragedy and I've thought about it every day since."
Drummer said, "It was never my intention to take a life but the situation escalated." He said he had been "on the wrong path" and had gotten involved in drugs at an early age but he now wants to use his time in prison "to better myself and get an education."
Davis did not speak at the hearing.
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