Man sentenced to six decades in prison for murder

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Alberto Colt-Sarmiento, 25, was sentenced on March 9 to nearly 61 years in prison for the November 2015 shooting death of Elijah Jheryl Crawford, 18.

Last month a Superior Court jury found Colt-Sarmiento guilty of murder in the second degree, manslaughter in the first degree, two counts of assault in the first degree, and unlawful possession of a firearm.

The case was handled by Deputy Prosecutors Greg Greer and Jesse Williams from the Prosecutor’s Office Gang Unit.

“The message needs to be clear,” Williams said. “When those involved in gangs commit an act of violence and someone innocent and not involved in that life dies, there should be no mercy for these types of crimes.”

Two co-defendants, Juan Javier Zuniga-Gonzales, 19, and Trino Valentino Martinez, 23, pleaded guilty in 2016. Both were sentenced to 21 years in prison.

“Gang violence in Pierce County is dramatically down,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “We still have work to do.”

On Nov. 2, 2015, Tacoma Police responded to a shooting on the Eastside of the city. Upon arriving, they found Crawford with a gunshot wound to the back. He died at the scene. Officers found another teen nearby with gunshot wounds to the shoulder and face. He was transported to the hospital and treated.

A third teen, Eddie Contreras, was uninjured and spoke with officers. Contreras said he and his friends were meeting up with Colt-Sarmiento so they could fist fight. When Contreras and his friends pulled into the arranged meeting location, they got out of the car and walked towards Colt-Sarmiento. A man wearing a hood with a blue bandana on his face walked out of the bushes and fired his gun at the teens.

Officers located two clusters of .40 caliber shell casings – one near the bushes and the other near where Colt-Sarmiento had been standing.

Contreras told detectives that he and Colt-Sarmiento had arranged the meeting while conversing on Facebook. Contreras and Colt-Sarmiento had recently been in a fist fight and Colt-Sarmiento wanted to fight again. Contreras said he agreed to fight as long as weapons were not involved.

While searching Colt-Sarmiento’s phone, detectives discovered text messages between him, Zuniga-Gonzales and Martinez. The text messages exchanged between Colt-Sarmiento and Martinez the day before the murder include, “KILLKILLKILL” and “well smoke em.”

When interviewed by detectives, Martinez admitted to being in the vehicle at the time of the shooting and he said Zuniga-Gonzales was the shooter.

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