OAKLAND -- A 19-year-old Oakland man was sentenced Friday to 72 years to life in prison for killing a Fremont man with a stray bullet at a San Leandro BART station, and for shooting another teen in the back in Oakland.
Fremont resident Kenneth Seets, 50, was waiting for bus at the Bay Fair station Jan. 19, 2013, when he was shot in the heart with one of 10 bullets that Jabrie Bennett fired from an assault rifle after a confrontation between his girlfriend and another group of young people outside the station.
Two days earlier, Bennett used the same gun to shoot a young man in his Oakland neighborhood. On the witness stand, Bennett denied being responsible for the Oakland shooting. He fired at the BART station, he testified, because he felt he was about to be shot by his former co-defendant, 19-year-old Andre Smith.
Jurors last month convicted Bennett of second-degree murder for Seets' death and premeditated attempted murder for the Oakland shooting. The same jury acquitted Smith of murder, and instead convicted him of gun possession. Smith was sentenced Friday to five years probation and was given credit for jail time already served.
Prosecutor Mark Melton argued at the trial that Smith instigated the violence by advancing on Bennett while reaching for a handgun and was thereby equally responsible for Seets' death.
The confrontation between the two groups of young people outside the BART station started that day because of looks exchange that each side found offensive. Bennett and his girlfriend had been headed home after shopping at the Bay Fair Mall. The whole time Bennett was toting a duffle bag containing the assault rifle.
Smith's younger brother Askari Smith, 16 at the time, also fired a gun during the confrontation but didn't hit anyone. He was prosecuted in juvenile court.
Defense attorney William Locke said that when Bennett learned he fired the fatal shot, he was devastated.
Seets was waiting for a bus after a shift at his job as a truck driver. The courtroom was filled Friday with friends and relatives of the Georgia native who said they continue to grieve the loss of the Army veteran who raised two children that weren't biologically his own.
"He was the one who kept our family together," his sister, Belinda Seets said. "He was my heart. So many people loved him because he was a kind person, he was a hard worker, he served his country."
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.