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By Casey Christie / The Californian
BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer email@example.com
In April of 2012, gang member Thomas Palenzuela was involved in a shooting outside a Bakersfield hookah lounge. Just weeks later, while on probation for a different gun-related charge, he shot a man.
Earlier this year he beat the rap on the hookah case.
Thursday, however, he was sentenced to 58 years to life for attempted murder in the second shooting.
Palenzuela, 21, shook his head at times but otherwise had no reaction as Kern County Superior Court Judge H.A. "Skip" Staley sentenced him. Staley said Palenzuela used a gun and inflicted physical and emotional injury on his victims.
"(Palenzuela) would be a danger to others if not imprisoned," Staley said.
While defense attorney Fred Gagliardini said his client was remorseful, the attorney thought Thursday's sentence was fair.
Prosecutor Ken Russell said Palenzuela had been arguing with a man near Kern Medical Center in April 2012 before pulling a handgun and threatening him.
When the man's father tried to intervene, Palenzuela struck him with the gun and took aim at the son, Russell said. The father jumped in front of his son as Palenzuela fired and was shot in the arm.
"This was just a normal guy sticking up for his son," Russell said.
The prosecutor called Palenzuela's punishment a "good" sentence considering the severity of his actions.
In the earlier case, Palenzuela was acquitted of charges filed in connection with the April 8, 2012 shooting outside the Hookah Lounge in the 5000 block of California Avenue. Bakersfield police had responded to the establishment for reports of shots fired in the parking lot and learned there had been a fight between two groups of rival gang members.
Police said one person suffered gunshot wounds to the chest and arm.
Palenzuela is a member of the Varrio Bakers criminal street gang and he and other gang members were at the lounge that night when one of them became involved in an altercation with a rival gang member in the parking lot. Several of the Varrio Bakers left the lounge and made their way toward an SUV belonging to one of them.
When the rival gang members blocked them from leaving, one of the Varrio Bakers grabbed a gun from the SUV and fired, Gagliardini said. The other gang returned fire, and bullets struck the lounge and nearby vehicles.