By Kristina Hernandez, Redlands Daily Facts
The sentence was delivered in West Valley Superior Court by Judge Victor Stull after victim impact statements were read by the mother and sister of Kruze Levusi Kuaea, who was killed in the shooting.
Both women described Kuaea as a happy-go-lucky 22-year-old who was a role model to his siblings and a person that they could always count on.
“Kruze was the type of person who would walk out of a restaurant with food to go and give it to a homeless person,” said the Calimesa man’s mother, Maricia McClendon, as she wiped tears from her face. “I believe everything happens for a reason and God is in charge. And if Kruze dying means that someday you will find salvation and accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior, then his death was not in vain.”
McClendon looked at Ortis as she read her statement and said that the shooting not only changed her family, but his as well.
“I forgive your actions and hope you find salvation,” she said. “My heart goes out to your mom.”
The victim’s sister, Jasmine Kuaea, spoke briefly, echoing her mother’s remarks.
Prior to the sentencing, Stull said the proceedings were difficult for all involved and his decision did not come lightly.
“I agree with Kruze’s mother that nobody wins,” he said. “I want everyone to know that I take this very seriously from both sides of the table.”
Ortis, 25, was found guilty May 13 in San Bernardino Superior Court of the shooting that left Kuaea dead and two others wounded. Jurors took less than three hours to deliberate. Stull was the trial judge, and the case followed him to a Rancho Cucamonga courtroom.
Charges included first-degree murder, attempted murder and assault with a firearm.
City cameras pointed at the downtown bar’s front entrance captured the shooting and Ortis was arrested in San Bernardino on Nov. 26, days after Redlands police had released surveillance footage shot outside the tavern.
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