OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A reputed gang member was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a shooting at a restaurant near Jack London Square three years ago that left two people dead and five others wounded.
Clem Thompkins, 25, chose not to say anything before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Vernon Nakahara sentenced him for his conviction for two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder for the shooting at Sweet Jimmie’s at 311 Broadway at 12:42 a.m. on April 25, 2011. He also was convicted of the special circumstance of committing multiple murders.
But the family members and friends of the victims in the case had plenty to say at the hearing, which was guarded by six bailiffs, telling Thompkins that he ruined their lives by spraying gunfire into the crowded restaurant.
Killed in the shooting were William Jenkins, 27, of Oakland, and 22-year-old Adam Williams of San Leandro, who both had young children. Williams was an after-school teacher’s aide at Peralta Elementary in Oakland.
Five other people were wounded in the shooting, four of them seriously, but they all survived.
Prosecutor Tim Wellman said Thompkins and co-defendant Lamar Fox, 25, belong to the Lower Bottoms gang in West Oakland and that the purpose of the shooting was to avenge a confrontation they and several colleagues had had with a member of the rival Acorn gang at another restaurant nearby a short time earlier.
He said none of the shooting victims were affiliated with a gang, alleging that Thompkins fired 10 shots into the restaurant “to promote himself and his gang and to support Fox” after Fox got into an altercation with several people at the restaurant’s entrance.
Fox was also convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, five counts of attempted murder and the special circumstance of multiple murders.
Fox was scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday as well but a computer error caused court officials to forget to bring him to court Wednesday so his sentencing was postponed until April 10.
Darisha Fields, the mother of Williams’ 7-year-old son Amari, said Williams’ death has been hard on the child because he has to go to therapy once a week.
Fields said Amari constantly asks her, “My dad didn’t do anything wrong – so why did he die?”
Fighting back tears, Fields asked Nakahara to sentence Thompkins to a long term “so I can let my son know that justice was served.”
Adriena Smith, who also dated Williams, said, “I don’t understand what happened to my boyfriend and best friend. This kind of thing has got to stop.”
Crying and shaking, Smith said, “This is horrible for me!” and she hasn’t been able to focus on her studies.
Smith’s father, Harold Smith, said he doesn’t think Thompkins understands “the pain he caused for other people.”
Lucretia Wilson, the sister of Luke Waterman, who was one of the people who was shot in the incident but survived, said Waterman still can’t walk or feed himself or dress without help.
Wilson said, “His life has changed tremendously because he can’t work or support his child and his brain injury leaves him continuously depressed.”
Wellman said during the trial that the chain of events that led to the shooting began when an Acorn gang member flashed a signal to indicate that he was armed with a gun — a gesture that he said Thompkins and Fox interpreted as a sign of disrespect.
The prosecutor said Thompkins, Fox and two colleagues then drove to Fox’s home to retrieve an assault rifle that Fox had stored there and returned to the Jack London Square area to look for the Acorn member.
Wellman said Thompkins and Fox didn’t find the rival so Fox went into Sweet Jimmie’s to look for the man.
He said Fox didn’t find the rival but got into an altercation with several people at the door and Thompkins, who had been waiting in a car outside, then came into the restaurant and opened fire, Wellman said Wednesday that, “Thompkins’ crimes reflect a new low for criminals who have no regard for human life and justice requires that he serve life in prison without parole.”
In their closing arguments in the trial, defense lawyers for Thompkins and Fox blamed each other’s clients for the shooting.
Fox’s lawyer, Deborah Levy, said Fox played on a small role in the shooting and claimed he had no idea that Thompkins was going to start firing.
But Thompkins’ lawyer, Darryl Billups, said he believes witnesses who identified Thompkins as the gunman were mistaken because Thompkins and Fox looked alike because they’re about the same size and had similar clothing and hairstyles that night.
Before he was sentenced Wednesday, Thompkins said he wanted to fire Billups and act as his own lawyer. But he reconsidered after Nakahara told him “you don’t know what you’re doing” because he’s not trained as a lawyer.
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