A Union City man charged with killing a teenager in 2007 was sentenced to 29 years in prison Tuesday morning.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stuart Hing sentenced Roberto Moreno, 21, to 29 years and four months for multiple charges, including manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon, stemming from a shooting that occurred on June 23, 2007.
Moreno shot and killed 17-year-old Biniam Yifru at a graduation party on Fellows Street and wounded another person following a fight.
Officers found Biniam’s body lying on a walkway with a head wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Moreno, who was also 17 at the time, was arrested two days after the shooting. Originally charged as a juvenile, he was later charged as an adult in 2008 and trasferred to Santa Rita Jail.
Moreno's sentencing includes 10 years for a gang enhancement clause.
According to Deputy District Attorney John Creighton, Moreno, a member of the Decoto gang, admitted to committing the crime for the benefit of the gang when he pleaded guilty to manslaughter last December.
Moreno must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence and will not be eligible for parole until approximately 2031, Creighton said.
Moreno and Biniam were friends, said Biniam's mother, Karen Yifru.
Biniam was a reformed gang member who was attempting to turn his life around, relatives said.
"That's what makes it so very unfortunate," Creighton said.
Biniam, a recent high school graduate, worked as a clerk at a law firm, had enrolled for classes at both City College of San Francisco and Chabot College, got a haircut and changed the style of his clothes, Karen Yifru said.
“Biniam was an amazing young man,” said Yifru in an interview with Union City Patch late last year. “He walked away from a life that was not giving him good options. He made better choices for himself. When he did that, he died. And it sucks.”
Yifru lost her oldest son, Travis Yifru, 24, to diabetes only five months before Biniam’s slaying.
Following Biniam’s death, she helped establish the Youth Violence Prevention Coalition to help eradicate gang violence in Union City.
During his sentencing at the Hayward Hall of Justice Tuesday morning, Moreno was dressed in a bright yellow jumpsuit. His hair was shoulder-length and he had a faint mustache.
He appeared inattentive, scanning the room through the window of the defendant’s booth as Biniam Yifru’s mother and younger sister made statements about the loss of their loved one.
“This all seems like a dream,” Candace Yifru, 18, said. “It pains me that as new people come into my life, I can only share stories about my brother and not the real thing, and what is even more painful than that is the fact that life will always be that way."
Candace was 14 when her brother was killed.
“My innocence and childhood were taken away with my brother’s life,” she said. (Read her full statement here.)
Karen Yifru held back tears as she spoke to the court about the loss of her son.
“You took my child away from me. My life is full of fear now, not because I’m afraid to die but because I’ve lost the ability to trust,” Karen Yifru said.
After Moreno’s sentencing, friends and relatives helped console Candace and Karen Yifru.
“Two teenagers lost their lives,” Yifru said, referring to Moreno’s sentence.
“I wish I could find compassion for him but I can’t.”