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Gang member who threw chair in court convicted of murder

Crime, Law and JusticeCrimeHomicideShootingsJustice System

A 23-year-old gang member who was convicted this week of the murder and robbery of a father of two was linked to the crime through phone records and evidence at the scene, prosecutors said.

Jesus Mendez, 23, was found guilty Tuesday of first-degree murder and second-degree robbery. A jury spent fewer than three hours deliberating before delivering the verdict in the 2012 killing of Jaime Sharif Abuawad, 27.

Though there were no eyewitnesses to the shooting, Mendez was identified as being close to the crime scene in the 800 block of West 81st Street in Vermont Knolls approximately 10 minutes before the killing, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Hilary Williams.

HOMICIDE REPORT: Tracking killings in L.A. County

Phone records showed that Mendez called Abuawad four times the morning of April 19. The first call came in about 11:13 a.m., and the last call was about 11:45 a.m., shortly before the murder.

Abuawad, who owned a cash for gold business, showed up to meet Mendez, Williams said.

Mendez then approached Abuawad’s vehicle, opened the passenger door, held out a gun and demanded money. Mendez shot Abuawad three times with a revolver, then fled with two cell phones and $300, Williams said.

Abuawad died at a hospital a short time later.

Mendez left evidence behind -- dropping the stolen cell phones in a nearby alley -- further linking him to the crime, Williams said.

A shoe print on the phone matched those of Mendez, who was wearing the same shoes when he was arrested.

The verdict came days after Mendez threw a chair at Williams and an LAPD detective, sending the investigator to the hospital. The jury was in another room when Mendez threw the chair.

Mendez faces life in prison without parole when he is sentenced Feb. 11.

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Twitter: @nicolesantacruz

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

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