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Palm Desert man sentenced to life without parole for Indio gang shooting

INDIO, Calif. - A gang member was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole today for gunning down a young man in Indio after mistaking him for a member of a rival gang.

Shawn Anthony Wynn of Palm Desert, 24, was convicted last month for the June 16, 2014 slaying of 20-year-old Juan Carlos Hernandez.

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Jurors deliberated for three days before finding Wynn guilty of murder, criminal street gang activity and being a felon in possession of a firearm. 

Jurors also found true a special circumstance allegation of being an active gang member during the killing.

Two other men, Edgar Machado and Rick Steve Jaime, along with a teenager -- all from Indio -- were also arrested in connection with the shooting, which occurred around 10:30 p.m. near Lancer Gate and Merlin Drive in Indio's Regency Park neighborhood.

Deputy District Attorney Manny Bustamante said Hernandez and two other men were hanging out in his parked Cadillac following a Father's Day celebration when someone yelled ``What are you doing here?'' Two shots were then fired, one of which went through the car's rear window and struck Hernandez in the head, killing him instantly.

Bustamante told jurors that Hernandez was targeted because he was believed to be wearing a hat bearing the letter "P,'' a trademark symbol of a gang at odds with the one to which Wynn allegedly belongs.

Bustamante said Hernandez had no gang affiliations and called the shooting "an unprovoked and cowardly attack.''

"Something so simple as a hat cost Juan Carlos Hernandez his life,'' Bustamante told the jury.

An SUV with a broken tail light was seen speeding from the scene on surveillance footage and was found in Indio about a week after the shooting, with Wynn behind the wheel.

Bustamante said Wynn told police that he was at his girlfriend's home the night of the shooting and did not belong to a gang. However, the prosecutor said Wynn was seen in photographs with his co-defendants while wearing clothes that represented their gang. The photographs were taken the day after the shooting, Bustamante alleged.

Wynn's attorney, Greg Johnson, argued the pictures did not prove that Wynn was a trusted member of the gang, had only known the men for about two weeks at the time of the killing and was only roped into the situation because he had a car and the other men did not.  

According to Johnson, the killing was orchestrated and carried out entirely by Machado. Wynn drove the other men to Indio that night supposedly so they could meet up with Machado's ex-girlfriend, while the true purpose of the drive was concealed from him, his attorney said.

Once in Regency Park, Machado got out of the car and shot Hernandez, Johnson alleged. Wynn never exited the car, his attorney said, and was later forced to don gang paraphernalia and take the pictures.

"He's guilty of hanging out with some terrible people. Absolutely,'' Johnson said. "But he is not guilty of the crimes that he's being charged with.''

Machado pleaded guilty in February 2016 to voluntary manslaughter, as well as gang and firearm allegations, and was sentenced to 39 years in state prison.

Jaime pleaded guilty in 2014 to being an accessory and criminal street gang activity and was handed a two-year prison sentence in fall 2014.

Due to the teen's age at the time of the shooting, court records regarding his arrest and any criminal charges are sealed.

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