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2 MEN FOUND GUILTY VERDICTS IN DEATH OF AVC PLAYER.

Byline: Karen Maeshiro Staff Writer

Two reputed gang members were convicted of second-degree murder in the 2001 slaying of an Antelope Valley College football player shot to death at a Norwalk party.

Jose Luna, 25, and Rafael Picado, 23, both of Norwalk, were found guilty in Norwalk Superior Court of the murder charge in the Aug. 12, 2001, slaying of Kevin Morris, 20, of Palmdale.

``The football players went to a party in Norwalk. One of their teammates accidentally bumped into a guy, spilling his beer. The guy had friends in a gang, and so the gang wanted to start an altercation,'' Deputy District Attorney Michael Enomoto said after Friday's jury verdict. ``When the party shut down, the football players were jumped in the front yard by gang members. During the course of the fight, two gang members pulled out guns and started shooting at the football players.''

Both defendants also were convicted of premeditated attempted murder in connection with the wounding of teammate Jerome Wright of Palmdale, who was shot four times, Enomoto said.

Both defendants fired guns, but shots from Picado's gun hit both victims, Enomoto said.

The jury deliberated for about three days before reaching its verdict. Sentencing is set for Oct. 8.

Picado is facing a maximum of 72 years to life in prison, and Luna 62 years to life in prison.

Morris and several other football players from Antelope Valley College had arrived about midnight at a party attended by about 200 people in the 13100 block of Crossdale Avenue in Norwalk.

The football players were invited by someone they had met earlier at another party, according to authorities.

Earlier reports from the Sheriff's Department said there was racial tension between the victims and a predominantly Latino group that also was at the party.

But homicide investigators said the investigation indicated the shooting was not racially motivated.

Morris, a Highland High School graduate and All-Golden League football player his senior year was majoring in history at Antelope Valley College. He was due to begin his second season as a defensive back on the college's football team two days after he was slain.

Highland students and staffers planted a rose bush in front of the school in memory of Morris.

Karen Maeshiro, (661) 267-5744

karen.maeshiro(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 19, 2003
Words:383
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