A self-proclaimed gang member convicted in the killing of a Chicago police officer was sentenced to 125 years in prison Friday.
Shawn Gaston was found guilty last month of being the triggerman in the shooting death of Officer Alejandro "Alex" Valadez on June 1, 2009. Gaston, the first of three men to stand trial, was also found guilty of attempted murder for shooting at Valadez's partner in the same incident.
The sentence is the maximum Gaston could have received, and he'll have to serve at least 80 years.
Gaston continued to proclaim his innocence at Friday's sentencing.
"I love my family. I want to apologize to you, to the victim's family I send my heart out. But I'm an innocent man, I lost a lot of people in my life too. But I'm an innocent man," Gaston said.
Members of Valadez's family spoke to reporters after the hearing.
"This is not a happy occassion for us, but we're glad justice has been served," the victim's sister, Brenda Valadez said.
Valadez and his partner, Tom Vargas, were responding to a call of shots fired at West 60th Street and South Hermitage Avenue that night in June 2009 when Valadez was struck by bullets in his thigh and behind his left ear.
"I could feel rounds over the top of my head as I was trying to pull my weapon. I illuminated my flashlight and I saw blood on the ground and immediately I knew he was dead. His eyes were open, but he never responded. He was looking around," Vargas testified.
Gaston and Walker were arrested within days of Valadez's slaying. A third man, Christopher Harris, was arrested several weeks later. All three admitted to police their roles in the crime, officials said.
Family members of both Gaston and Valadez were visibly emotional as the verdict was read last month.
"My nephew, who was born three months after my brother was murdered, will never know what his daddy's hugs and kisses feel like. His daddy will not be there on his first day of school," said Valadez's sister, Brenda Valadez, outside the courtroom.
During closing arguments in the trial, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, litigating her first case since 2005, explained how they believed Gaston leaned out the passenger window of a moving vehicle and fired the fatal shot while his friend, Kevin Walker, drove.
"Rage, revenge and senseless murder was his motive," said Asst. State's Attorney Frank Marek. "He didn't care who it was at the end of his gun."