A man who was convicted of murdering a Long Beach Police Department officer 15 years ago had his death sentence upheld today by the California Supreme Court. The court dropped a special circumstance charge of lying in wait but upheld the sentence for the April 2000 killing of Officer Daryle Black.
Ramon Sandoval, 34, was originally sentenced in 2003, when Superior Court Judge Joan Comparet-Cassani referred to him as a “cold blooded, heartless killer.” Sandoval was found guilty of firing 28 rounds from an assault rifle into an unmarked police car that held Black and his partner Officer Rick Delfin. Delfin survived the hail of gunfire but Black suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the head and died.
"I was in so much pain, the officers had to pry my hands off the steering wheel to get me out," Delfin told the Los Angeles Times during a May 2000 press conference outside Long Beach Memorial Hospital. "Daryle Black's head was resting on my right shoulder... Something in my heart told me he was gone."
The judge said that the evidence showed that Sandoval aimed at the officers' heads as he fired round after round from about 15 feet away, able to see the officer’s bodies move each time they were struck by the gunfire. Delfin was able to drive the car out of harms way but not before Black was mortally wounded. Delfin also suffered a knee injury that required knee replacement surgery.
"Even though Officer Delfin managed to slowly drive the car down the street to try to evade the shooter, Sandoval continued to shoot at the police officers," the judge said. "The trajectory analysis showed that Sandoval followed his targets as they attempted to leave the area of the attack."
The shooting was an attempt by Sandoval to provide protection for one of his fellow gang members who was armed, on parole and about to commit a retaliatory shooting against a rival gang member. The target was a man who was believed to be responsible for wounding Sandoval in a previous drive by shooting. When Sandoval spotted Delfin and Black in the unmarked car, he opened fire.
The gunfire also struck a pregnant woman in a nearby residence, with the bullet missing her unborn fetus by inches. The woman, identified as 45-year-old Martha Cervantes by the Times, was seven months pregnant and was struck a total of five times as the bullets passed through the walls of her home.
Sandoval was found guilty of murder of a police officer in the performance of his duties, murder to avoid arrest, using an assault weapon to assault a peace officer and a street gang murder.
“If there is a case where death is appropriate, this is one of those cases,” Comparet-Cassani said.
City News Service contributed to this story.