DES MOINES, Iowa — The reality inside a Polk County courtroom Monday afternoon was painful.
“There’s a bullet inside my head. It’s not coming out. If it does it could also cause brain damage,” said Kemery Ortega a Des Moines East High School student who survived a March drive-by shooting on the sidewalk outside of the school.
The words shared by families impacted by a Des Moines drive-by shooting in March were powerful. “At the end, I don’t win anything with you going to jail or not. My son is still not coming back,” said Deborah Perez who lost her son Jose Lopez in the shooting.
The result of the actions for many of those that carried out the shooting was purposeful. “This crime that occurred was planned, premeditated, and terroristic in nature,” said District Court Judge Scott Rosenberg.
Holding back tears during sentencing, 16-year-old Kevin Martinez was sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for his role with nine other suspects in a drive-by shooting on March 7th outside of East High School. Three cars and dozens of bullets ended the life of 15-year-old Jose Lopez and it severely injured two East High students Kemery Ortega and Jessica Lopez.
Martinez admitted to being in the second of three cars during the shooting. “If I could have done something different that day I would have talked to the other guys and tried to pull them out of the situation or encourage the others not to go. I would have said something that day and not stay quiet. I regret the decision every day,” said Ortega.
Perez told Martinez his regret is an opportunity her son will never have. “Where is my son’s second opportunity to go to college, to actually do what he wanted to do?”
Jessica Lopez and Ortega fought for their lives after being innocent bystanders and provided powerful recommendations. Lopez said, “I feel they should not be let free any time soon. It is not fair to us. I almost died as well.”
The two teenage girls may have survived but Ortega reminded Martinez that his role will impact her life. “I can’t do many things anymore because it would cause further damage to my brain.”
Addressing the court in a short reading “Champion,” Ortega stood tall like one and offered Martinez some of the same hope she used to battle back from a bullet in the head. “I believe you can come out of this and become a better man and better human in this world,” said Ortega.
The victims showed compassion for their aggressors, compassion that was not provided to them during that moment in March that changed many lives forever. Perez said, “I get to live every day feeling so bad for having a little bit of joy when I do something with my boys because I’m missing one.”
Three more suspects are scheduled to be sentenced on March 30th. Another three will head to trial in the spring. The remaining two are being tried as juveniles.