Sa'Lesha Beeks sobbed as she poured out her contempt toward the gangland atmosphere in her Minneapolis neighborhood and the man who shot and killed her mother.
The bullet fired by Joshua Ezeka, was not meant for 58-year-old Birdell Beeks, but it killed her anyway in May 2016 as she sat in her minivan with her granddaughter by her side.
As the Beeks family, including three daughters, two grandchildren, three nieces and a nephew looked on, Ezeka, 21, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for first-degree murder.
Hennepin County District Judge Tamara Garcia also sentenced Ezeka, 21, to 30 years for attempted first-degree murder, and three years for assault in the second degree. A jury found Ezeka guilty after a trial last month, in a case that stirred outrage over continuing violence in parts of north Minneapolis. In the wake of Beeks' death, residents took the streets and stood before the City Council demanding peace.
"This monster put us through this trial," Sa'Lesha Beeks said during sentencing, "I'd love nothing more than to see him die so his family can see our pain."
DaLesha Beeks, another daughter, stood for a few seconds overcome by emotion before she began reading a prepared statement.
"My son can't talk to his nanny about his day or how he feels; my daughter lost her best friend," she said. "I miss my mom every single day, I can't sleep at night."
Handcuffed and wearing an orange jumpsuit, Garcia asked Ezeka if he had anything to say before sentencing.
"No, your honor," he replied.
Prosecutors say Ezeka was targeting a rival gang member in an oncoming car when he fired nine shots at the intersection of Penn and 21st avenues N.
His attorneys said he feared for his safety when he got a frantic call that a carful of rival gang members was going to shoot up his house. He grabbed his gun, ran outside and wildly fired at the rival's gold Toyota Corolla. One shot hit the minivan, killing Beeks. Her granddaughter was uninjured.
Afterward, Ezeka jumped into a waiting car of the friend who called him, Freddy Scott, who authorities say also belonged to the Low End, a loose collection of North Side gangs.
Beeks' death caused a furor in the community and police searched for several months before focusing in on Ezeka who, when questioned, admitted to the shooting,though he claimed he was not trying to hit anyone.
The two Minneapolis homicide detectives who investigated the case watched the sentencing from the back row of the courtroom on Monday.
"Today is a culmination of everything that homicide investigators strive for," Sgt. Charles Green said afterward.
"This was not gang members shooting at each other," said Sgt. Chris Thomsen. "It was truly an innocent victim in this case."
The sentencing came with an unusually strong security presence. Ezeka was surrounded by three armed Hennepin County deputies, while four stood in the back.
Sa'Lesha Beeks wore a T-shirt Monday with the word "Mama" above Beeks' photo and the date of her death, May 26, 2016.
She said that suspecting Ezeka's involvement, the family posted fliers asking for help in finding the killer throughout the neighborhood, including in front of Ezeka's house.
"There should be no mercy for him or any other gang member," she told the judge. "He never came forward. There's no sense of remorse. We had people taking [the fliers] down, and we kept putting them up.
"I hope he and his friends take a lesson from this. You can't go out shooting and put innocent people in the line of fire."
DaLesha Beeks told the judge she felt lost and confused. "I feel alone, I feel numb, I'm not ready to let go," she said. "All I have left is memories, pictures."
Garcia rejected Hennepin County public defender Paul Schneck's motions for a mistrial and a new trial. Schneck said Ezeka got a call that a rival gang member was driving over to shoot up his house, and when Ezeka went outside with his gun, he was 100 to 160 feet away from any vehicles. He said that Ezeka had no intention to shoot anyone, and when he was eventually questioned by police, he admitted his involvement.
"He took responsibility," said Schneck. Without Ezeka's admission, he might never have been prosecuted, Shneck said.
But assistant county attorney Dominick Mathews said there was "overwhelming evidence" that Ezeka intended to kill the rival gang member and that the shooting was premeditated.
"He made that decision and it played out by the fact that he fired nine times," Mathews said. "He never took full responsibility for his actions."
Sa'Lesha Beeks, the mother of the teenager who was with Birdell Beeks when she was killed, said that despite the trauma that her daughter endured, she is thriving. She graduates from high school this spring, and is planning to go to college in Florida.
"My mother would be really happy," Sa'Lesha Beeks said.