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55 years to life for N.Y. man who killed woman shielding kids

55 years to life for N.Y. man who killed woman shielding kids
Denise Peace with some of the grandchildren in her care after her daughter was slain outside a Brooklyn elementary school.
(Carolyn Cole)

NEW YORK -- Last year, we told the story of Denise Peace, a grandmother thrust back into a parenting role for several young children after the death of her 34-year-old daughter, who was caught in the middle of a gunfight outside a Brooklyn elementary school. 

On Tuesday, the man charged with firing the bullets that killed Zurana Horton as she tried to protect several children was sentenced to 55 years to life in prison.

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The man, Andrew Lopez, 20, continued to deny his involvement in the shooting of Horton, a mother of 12, whose death on a sidewalk crowded with children getting out of their elementary school shocked the city. Police said Lopez was a gang member who opened fire from the roof of a nearby building.

Horton had gone to the school to pick up her daughter on Oct. 21, 2011,  when police say Lopez began firing a 9 mm handgun after a dispute with rival gang members. A jury in April found Lopez guilty of Horton’s murder. He also was convicted of two counts of assault for gunshot injuries suffered by another woman and a girl who were near Horton.

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During the trial, jurors viewed a video of the incident, which showed chaos erupting on the sidewalk as about a dozen shots rang out and pedestrians scrambled for safety. Horton can be seen falling to the ground in a puddle of blood. Witnesses testified that before being shot, she pushed one child out of the way. Then she clutched her chest and fell to the ground.

Lopez and his brother, Jonathan Carrasquillo, 24, were charged in the case, but a jury acquitted Carrasquillo, rejecting prosecutors’ allegations that he had ordered Lopez to open fire.

Police said Lopez had confessed after his arrest, but in court Tuesday, he insisted he was innocent. “I’m very sorry for your loss, honestly. But I did not kill your daughter,” Lopez said to Horton’s relatives in the courtroom.

They included Peace, who is raising several of her daughter’s children, and Horton’s stepfather, Kenneth Thompson. Neither was moved by Lopez’s statement.

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“I know she’s looking down at us and she’s glad ... that justice has been served,” Peace said outside of court. 

Thompson said even if Lopez had not intended to shoot Horton, he had gone to the roof with a gun “with the idea of killing someone else.”

Lopez was sentenced to 25 years to life for Horton’s death, and 15 years to life for each count of first-degree attempted assault, with the sentences to run consecutively. 

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