SALT LAKE CITY — A man who admitted killing three people in a botched drug robbery asked for forgiveness Thursday as he was sentenced to prison.
With his hands shackled behind him, Gerald Radckiff Grant, 21, apologized to the families of the three young men he shot, though he recognized his words made little difference.
"There are no words that can mend the broken hearts that are in this courtroom. I need you all to know these weren't my intentions that night," Grant said as he was sentenced. "We were all just kids, we were all young and had our whole futures ahead of us."
If he could go back in time and change what happened on the night the two brothers, Angel Lopez-Salinas, 20, and Lauro "Raul" Lopez-Salinas, 19, as well as their friend, Armando Cuenca-Curiel, 17, were killed, Grant insisted he would have done so 100 times by now.
Walking hand in hand to address the judge, the mothers of the victims said through a Spanish interpreter they hope Grant finds mercy, but it won't come from them.
"I will never be able to embrace my children again, or see them," said Martha Lopez, the mother of the Lopez-Salinas brothers. "I would like to say that I could forgive him, but I can't. But I will ask God to forgive him."
Grant's mother, Patricia Mason, also pleaded on behalf of her son, describing his tender nature and his insecurity growing up in a fatherless home.
"To the loved ones of the deceased sons, and especially to the mothers, we have dedicated our best to guide our sons on a path to success," Mason said. "Guiding them, yes, but it's their journey. Had they all been in school, at work, at home or at church, none of us would be in this courtroom today."
Grant pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors in January to three counts of manslaughter, a second-degree felony, saying he believed the three killings were done in defense of his own life after he was shot in the leg.
He had originally faced three counts of aggravated murder, a first-degree felony and possible capital offense, in the shooting deaths.
Under the deal, Grant was ordered Thursday to serve at least six and up to 30 years in prison.
Prison terms of two to 20 years for each of the three manslaughter convictions, along with a weapons enhancement for each, will run consecutively to one another, with a cap at 30 years. An additional sentence of up to five years for a third-degree felony conviction for possession with intent to distribute in an unrelated case was ordered to run concurrently.
According to police, Grant and another man had arranged to buy drugs from the trio. After meeting up in South Salt Lake at 283 E. 3300 South, Grant got into an SUV alone with the group, which then drove off to a nearby neighborhood.
The Lopez-Salinas brothers and Cuenca-Curiel were found shot in the SUV, which was left with the engine revving and smoking in the middle of the road. Cuenca-Curiel died at the scene, while the brothers died in the following days.
A memorandum filed by Grant's attorneys prior to the hearing laid out a description of how Grant — outnumbered, wounded and fearing for his life — had shot Cuenca-Curiel and Angel Lopez-Salinas as they came after him in the SUV. Then, fearing the driver would attack him next, Grant shot Raul Lopez-Salinas when he stopped the vehicle, the memorandum states.
But prosecutor Matthew Janzen insisted the fatal robbery was just one of dozens of similar raids Grant had pulled off over several months, usually with Grant acting as the armed muscle. In text messages, Janzen said, Grant had even compared himself to Robin Hood, stealing drugs to share with his friends.
"These were not situations that were unavoidable accidents," Janzen said. "Each trigger pull were choices he made. … The only person responsible here is the defendant."
But Grant's attorney, Wojciech Nitecki, praised his client for accepting responsibility, saying it was only by chance that Grant, a good man in a rough patch of life, did not end up dead himself.4 comments on this story
"Certainly it has to be the case that losing a child is every parent's worst nightmare, and Grant is here today to take responsibility," he said. "We have represented a lot of people, and I have to say, that I am proud that I had an opportunity to represent Grant."
Mahad Omar, 23, who is accused of planning the robbery with Grant, is also charged in the case. He faces three counts of murder and one count of aggravated robbery, all first-degree felonies, plus obstructing justice, a second-degree felony. He has until March 19 to accept or reject a plea deal from prosecutors, according to court documents.