Gang member gets 40 years to life for deadly parking lot shooting

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SAN DIEGO — A gang member who was 17 when he gunned down two men in the parking lot of a City Heights convenience store was sentenced Friday to 40 years to life in state prison.

Leiga Tauiliili, now 21, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges and gun use allegations in connection with the Nov. 1, 2015, gang-related shooting deaths of Deon Peterson, 28, and Joseph Ponder, 26, both of Oceanside.

Peterson and Ponder were in San Diego to celebrate Halloween when they were shot in the parking lot of a business on El Cajon Boulevard, near 52nd Street, according to Deputy District Attorney John Pro. The men got into a verbal altercation over gang ties with a group of people outside the store, and Tauliili approached them and opened fire as they stood outside their vehicle, Pro said.

Both men were killed, while a woman sitting inside the car was struck in the eye, resulting in a mayhem charge against Tauliili, for which he was sentenced to a concurrent four-year term.

Investigators recognized Tauiliili from surveillance footage taken at the scene, leading to his arrest a few weeks after the shooting, according to the prosecutor.

His case bounced back and forth between juvenile and adult court jurisdictions over the years, before it was finally transferred and scheduled for a trial in adult court last year. He pleaded guilty to the charges last October.

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