OAKLAND (CBS SF) — An Oakland man was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole plus 65 years for his conviction for two counts of murder and the special circumstance of committing multiple murders for fatally shooting two teenage girls near Brookdale Park in East Oakland in 2012.

Before he was sentenced, Diantay Powell, who’s now 21 but was 18 at the time, apologized for fatally shooting 16-year-old Bobbie Sartain and 15-year-old Raquel Gerstel in the 2600 block of Minna Avenue near Brookdale Avenue around 5 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2012.

Diantay Powell (Oakland Police Dept.)

Diantay Powell (Oakland Police Dept.)

Jurors convicted Powell of second-degree murder for the death of Gerstel, who he shot first, and first-degree murder for the death of Sartain, who he shot next as she tried to run away.

Powell said he was angry at the time he fired a barrage of bullets at the two girls because he’d been high on drugs for two days.

Powell’s lawyer, Darryl Stallworth, admitted during the trial that Powell shot both girls but said he should only be found guilty of two counts of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter because he acted rashly and in the heat of passion.

Stallworth said Powell lacked the ability to make intelligent decisions and premeditate a murder because he suffered from a terrible childhood, had absentee parents and regularly used drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and cough syrup.

But prosecutor Melissa Dooher said Powell should be found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and told jurors in her closing argument that it was “ridiculous” for Stallworth to claim that Powell was provoked by the girls before he fired about two dozen bullets at them from a 9mm semi-automatic gun.

“I submit there was zero provocation” on the part of Sartain and Gerstel, Dooher said, describing the victims as “two little girls.”

She said Powell had no justification for shooting them simply because they refused to get out of his car and Sartain threatened to call the police after he punched her in the face and knocked her to the ground.

Dooher said Powell first shot Gerstel and then shot Sartain as she “begged for her life” and tried to run away.

Gerstel and Sartain were friends who grew up together in Alameda.  Gerstel lived in San Leandro and was a freshman at Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo. Sartain lived on High Street in Oakland, a few blocks from where the shooting happened.

Sartain and Gerstel were involved in relationships with Powell and his friend Antonio Edwards, respectively, according to testimony and attorney statements in the case.

Quincy Carter, who is now 19 but was 16 at the time, testified during Powell’s trial that he had been hanging out in a car with Powell, Edwards, Sartain and Gerstel in the 2600 block of Minna Avenue in the early morning hours of Nov. 25, 2012, but the atmosphere grew tense when Powell got a call from one of his girlfriends and asked Sartain and Gerstel to leave.

Carter said Sartain didn’t want to leave the car and got into an argument with Powell. He said the argument continued with Powell pulling Sartain out of the car. Sartain punched Powell in the face and Powell retaliating by hitting her back.

Carter said that after Gerstel and Powell exchanged angry words, Powell opened fire.

Edwards, who was 19 at the time and is now 23, stood trial with Powell on a charge of being an accessory after the fact for allegedly driving Powell away from the shooting scene, but Dooher decided to dismiss that charge against him just before the trial concluded because he only would have faced an eight-month sentence if he was convicted of that crime.

Edwards is already serving a term of 95 years to life in state prison because he was convicted last year of robbery, rape, assault with a deadly weapon and other sex charges for allegedly assaulting a woman and knocking her boyfriend unconscious in an unrelated incident in the 2800 block of Ettie Street in East Oakland on Dec. 8, 2012.

Edwards also is charged with the robbery and kidnapping of three separate victims during a takeover residential robbery in West Oakland on Dec. 13, 2012, as well as an assault with a semiautomatic firearm on one of the three victims during the course of those crimes. A trial date hasn’t yet been set in that case.

Gerstel’s father, Barton Gerstel, said Friday, “I’m glad the trial is finally over but this doesn’t bring Raquel back.”

Gerstel said Powell’s apology “kind of counts for something but it doesn’t change the fact that I can never have grandchildren from my daughter and I can never see her smile again.”

One of Powell’s six sisters sobbed uncontrollably after Alameda County Judge C. Don Clay sentenced Powell so she went out into the hall, where she continued to cry.

 

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