A man convicted of shooting and killing an Oceanside police officer will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Meki Gaono,17 at the time and a documented gang member, fired the fatal shot that killed Officer Dan Bessant during a routine traffic stop in 2006.
The time that elapsed between the beginning of the traffic stop and the time that Gaono pulled the trigger played a large role in Thursday's ruling.
“What struck me was the amount of time,” Judge Runston Maino said referring to the fact that the crime didn't happen in a split-second but rather Gaono and his friends had about 15 minutes which he felt was more than enough time to make the right decision.
Oceanside's chief of police and Bessant's father addressed the convicted killer as he was sentenced Thursday.
Chief Frank McCoy, Jr. urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence. “In doing so you’ll allow the winds of accountability to blow through this courtroom,” he said.
For Steve Bessant, he took the moment to tell Gaono something he had been feeling for a long time.
"Meki, I forgive you for killing my son," Bessant said before asking the judge to hand down the maximum penalty.
Outside court, Bessant told NBCSandiego that he had forgiven Gaono in his heart several years ago but the exchange during sentencing was the first time he had actually said it to his son’s killer.
“Meki manned up and looked me in the eyes,” he said referring to the fact that Gaono gave him the respect of listening to what he had to say.
Two people on behalf of Meki spoke on his behalf, his sister Kora Sale and his friend Mata Tili. Both apologized to the Bessant family and asked the judge for leniency arguing that Gaono was young at the time of the shooting and saying that he has a good heart.
Authorities concluded the killing was done for no other reason than it presented a chance for three documented gang members to gain respect, however warped, for shooting at police.
Gaono is the second person tried and convicted in connection with the shooting death. The first teenager sentenced for his role in this crime, Penifoti Teaotui also got life in prison without the possibility of parole.