MARTINEZ -- Lincoln Plair's family did not rejoice Friday at the sentencing of his killer. But they were "overwhelmed by hope" that the gang member who shot the popular Richmond resident to death in March 2013 will likely stay behind bars the rest of his life.
"It does help. It does," Plair's sister Tanisha Evans said after a judge sentenced Derrick Cooper to 50-years-to-life in state prison. "Where we're from, people have been killed, and that's it. To have one guy convicted and another two charged, we are just overwhelmed by the hope this brings."
Cooper, 20, received consecutive 25 years-to-life sentences for Plair's killing on March 4, 2013. He was one of three gang members involved in the shooting, which occurred after their gang was involved in a fight with rivals. A 12-person jury convicted him of the murder in May.
Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Patricia Scanlon also sentenced Cooper on enhancement charges for using a firearm to aid a criminal street gang and for being a member of a street gang.
Plair, a popular figure in the city's Iron Triangle, was mowing lawns in the 600 block of Sixth Street around 3:30 p.m. when he was shot several times in the torso. Cooper's trial revealed that Plair pushed a couple of kids out of the way before being gunned down.
Three members of Plair's family spoke at the sentencing, and an audiotape of Plair talking about his life dreams shortly before the murder also was played. In all, 11 family members were in the courtroom, including Plair's grandfather and a 6-year-old nephew, who wore a buttoned white shirt with a large picture of Plair and the initials RIP on the back.
"I'm gonna help everybody," Plair said in the tape. "Forget guns. I'm gonna build a big old homeless shelter for everybody. Bums won't be called bums. No guns. No weapons."
Myzina Dennis, a cousin of Plair's, told the courtroom that "I believe in justice now," then offered Cooper her forgiveness, a sentiment she and other members of Plair's family also shared privately when it was over.
"I have to forgive him. It's the only way I can sleep at night," Dennis said after the sentencing. "Life happens, and things happen. It's sad that his life is basically over now, too."
Dennis said Cooper and Plair grew up together and that they "played in the dirt together when they were tiny. Nobody every played with guns."
Cooper, wearing a yellow prison suit, sat quietly during the sentencing and did not speak. Defense attorney Nicole Eiland motioned to have the sentencing delayed until later this month, but Scanlon denied it.
The two other gang members charged in the killing, James Arnez Green and Antwone Johnson, both from Richmond, are awaiting trial.
Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rderh