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Life in prison without parole for gang member who murdered LA County deputy

A photo of slain Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Juan Abel Escalante.
A photo of slain Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Juan Abel Escalante. Rina Palta

Jose Renteria was sentenced Monday to life without parole for the murder of Juan Abel Escalante, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, in 2008.

A jury found Renteria incited Escalante’s murder when he handed a gun to a fellow gang member and told him to “kill any park,” a reference to rival gangs in the Highland Park and Cypress Park neighborhoods of Northeast L.A.

As a row of deputy sheriff’s looked on, Judge Ronald Coen imposed consecutive sentences of 65 years to life in prison. The punishment included enhancements for being a gang member and an earlier attempted murder where Renteria was the shooter.

RELATED: Sheriff's deputy's 2008 murder helped inspire changes in Northeast Los Angeles

Carlos Velasquez shot and killed Escalante in the early morning hours as he left for work at Men’s Central Jail. Velasquez pleaded guilty to the murder and is serving a life without parole sentence in a California prison.

Renteria has already appealed his conviction. Because he was a juvenile when the murder took place, Renteria will have the right to petition for resentencing (to life with the possibility of parole) in 15 years.

“We’re very happy for the verdict,” said Deputy District Attorney John Colello. “This is as close to justice as we can ever get.”

Renteria is the third of six defendants to be sentenced in the case. In addition to Velasquez, a man who was riding in the back seat of the car during the drive-by is in prison. The car’s driver is currently cooperating with prosecutors.

Meanwhile, another alleged passenger in the car, Armando Alberon is expected in court later Monday to set a date for a preliminary hearing on his murder charge in the case. A sixth suspect remains at large.

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