Vancouver man gets 27 years in motel shooting

Victim was shot in head, witness told to 'scram'

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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A Vancouver man was sentenced Monday to more than 27 years in prison for shooting a gang associate in the forehead in 2013 at downtown Vancouver's EconoLodge.

Angelino L. Pena, 32, an associate of the Norteño street gang, was found guilty in Clark County Superior Court of second-degree attempted murder with a weapons enhancement and first-degree assault with a weapons enhancement. The weapons enhancement added a mandatory additional five years to the sentence.

"This was a crime of shocking violence, coldness and lack of remorse," said Judge David Gregerson just before sentencing Pena.

Gregerson noted that after shooting the victim, Vincent Burnett, 28, in the forehead, Pena instructed witnesses to leave the crime scene and pretend as if they saw nothing.

Deputy Prosecutor Dan Gasperino had requested a sentence of 28 years — the maximum under the state standard sentencing range.

The victim's brain was damaged from his wounds, Gasperino said. As a result, he has a memory impairment and physical impairments that have prevented him from returning to work as a welder, the prosecutor said.

Pena's attorney, Gregg Schile, argued that 22 to 23 years would be more appropriate.

"I would like everyone to know how grateful I am to still have my son," said Burnett's mother, Donna Zawislak. She specifically thanked Clark County sheriff's Detective Erik Zimmerman, who investigated the case, and Vancouver firefighters, who saved her son's life.

Pena apologized to Burnett's family but then complained that he had an inadequate defense.

A Clark County jury took about four hours to reach its verdict July 2 after hearing about two days of testimony and argument in Gregerson's courtroom.

Pena shot Burnett in the forehead with a semiautomatic firearm Jan. 26, 2013, in Room 212 at EconoLodge, 601 Broadway, after an argument about the victim's cousin, according to court records.

However, Burnett testified that he couldn't remember what the argument was about. He said he remembers few details about the events leading up to the shooting because the bullet punctured his skull and entered his brain, causing memory loss.

At least two other people were in the motel room at the time, including Elena Espinoza, who paid for the room, according to a court affidavit by Zimmerman.

Another man was asleep at the time of the shooting and awoke to the blast of gunshots, court records said. He saw the victim fall facedown, "motionless, with blood pooling around his face and head," Zimmerman wrote.

Pena then told the witness to "scram," according to Zimmerman.

Schile argued that there was reasonable doubt that Pena had actually been inside the motel room at the time of the shooting and that he had held the gun. He also suggested the shooting may have been accidental. Pena did not take the stand in his defense, and no defense witnesses were presented.

Court records indicate no one called 911 for 10 hours.

Espinoza, who eventually sought help for the victim, reportedly gave inconsistent stories about what happened. Vancouver police indicated in court records that they believe she was trying to provide an alibi for Pena.

She pleaded guilty in September to first-degree rendering criminal assistance and was sentenced to more than two years in prison.

Pena has a criminal history, including assault with a deadly weapon, malicious mischief, harassment, robbery and weapons violations.

Portlander gets 2 years in drive-by shooting

A Portland man was sentenced to two years in prison for his role as the driver in an August 2013 drive-by shooting that terrified patrons at a Vancouver rap concert.

Javontae N. Gibson, 20, pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court June 26 to third-degree assault and drive-by shooting.

Johnny T. Hudson, 25, a member of the Hoover Crips gang, was sentenced Nov. 20 to nearly seven years in prison for repeatedly firing a pistol from a vehicle's passenger seat near a crowd gathered outside the Avenue Lounge and Restaurant, 9115 N.E. 117th Ave. Gibson drove the vehicle through the bar's parking lot, court records say.

No one was reported to have been hit.

The nightclub was hosting a rap concert for rival gang members on the night of the shooting, according to court documents.