A self-proclaimed gang member said he shot his friend in the back of the head five times because he thought his friend was out to kill him.

Although Bob Veloz, 20, called his own crime "cold-blooded," he said he felt he had to shoot Manuel Archuleta in the back of the head because the two had argued the day before and Archuleta had brandished a gun at him.

"It was either him or me," Veloz told 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton during his sentencing Monday for first-degree murder.

Atherton agreed with Veloz that what he did was cold-blooded, adding that even if Archuleta "was no saint," as Archuleta's family put it in a letter to the court, he did not deserve to die.

"Murder is murder," Atherton said, and Veloz not only took a life but also threw his own away. Atherton sentenced him to serve 15 years to life in prison with no recommendation by the court to shorten his time.

Veloz shot Archuleta in the back of the head five times while riding in the same car with two others on May 12, 2007. After the shooting, the three dumped Archuleta's body near 4900 South and 4900 West.

Marco Amaro, 24, and a juvenile tried to clean the blood out of Amaro's car. When that failed, the group set the car on fire to hide the evidence. Amaro was sentenced to two concurrent one-to-15-year prison sentences for obstruction of justice.

The day before the shooting, Veloz claimed he picked Archuleta up to give him a ride. While riding, he noticed that Archuleta had taken some of his clothes and put them in his backpack. Veloz claims Archuleta then brandished a gun, daring him to make an issue over the clothes.

Atherton pointed out that Veloz did have a caring and supportive family, and that his father was well-educated and worked as an engineer. She said she was troubled by why Veloz would choose to become a gang member as early as age 14 given his supportive family life.

Veloz said he wanted to "hang out" with gang members.

Although Archuleta's family lives out of state and was not present for Monday's hearing, Veloz offered his apology to them for what happened.

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