A West Los Angeles gangster who killed two people and tried to murder 12 others was warned by a judge to “stop smiling” during sentencing yesterday, but that didn't stop him from smirking and chuckling as one of the victim's mothers deplored his crimes in court.
The dark side of a longstanding rivalry between West L.A. and Santa Monica gangs played out in the sentencing of 25-year-old Jose Zapien, who headed west from his Sawtelle neighborhood to kill a 15-year-old high school football player and a young man in separate shootings nearly eight years ago.
Zapien was a teenager when he committed the Feb. 28, 2006 murder of 15-year-old Eddie Lopez and the Dec. 27, 2006 killing of 20-year-old Miguel Martin in Santa Monica.
Prosecutors alleged that Zapien's attacks, including the attempted murders of 12 others, were retaliation for the 2004 shooting death of a fellow Sotel gang member at the hands of a Santa Monica 13 gang rival.
The Los Angeles Times, which reported that Zapien emitted a “dismissive chuckle and smirk” during the address of Lopez's mother in court, published a menacing photo of the gangster in which his “Sotel” and “WLA” head tattoos were on display.
He was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus an additional 95 years.
Santa Monica police worked with LAPD gang detectives to crack the case and bring it to the District Attorney's Hardcore Gang Division.
Zapien's “strongest and most despicable trait,” Deputy District Attorney Andrew Cooper said, is his “lack of reverence for human life.''