Almost one year after the shooting death of 17-year-old Carlos Santos, a man has been convicted in connection with the teen's death in a drug deal gone wrong.
Christian Xavier Harris, now 22, has been convicted of first degree felony murder after shooting into a car during an Edmond drug deal on March 18, 2016. At least one of the two shots struck Santos in the head, and he died of his injuries early the next morning.
Police say Santos and two friends, 18-year-old Jessey Gonzalez and 18-year-old Nicolas Gedela, were trying to sell a quarter pound of marijuana to Harris and two other men for $850. The six met at the Oxford Oaks apartments in Edmond to conduct the drug deal, but Harris's co-horts reportedly tried to steal the marijuana instead of buying it. As Jessey Gonzales tried to drive away with Santos and Gedela, Harris fired into the vehicle, fatally wounding the 17-year-old Santos.
After the shooting, police arrested Harris, Gonzales, and Gedela, all on counts of first degree murder. Under Oklahoma law, if a death occurs in the commission of a felony, any person involved in committing that felony may be charged with first degree murder--including the friends and associates of the fatally injured person.
Both Gonzales and Gedela entered plea agreements, with Gonzales pleading guilty to second degree murder and Gedela pleading guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Both men, now 19, await sentencing.
Harris took his case to trial. His defense attorneys argued that second degree murder was a more appropriate charge under the circumstances of the shooting. His defense asked the jury for a 15-year-sentence.
However, jurors returned a guilty verdict on charges of conspiracy and first degree murder in the commission of an armed robbery. The jury recommended a $5,000 fine for the conspiracy charge, but suggested a life sentence for the murder. Because murder is an 85 percent crime, and because Oklahoma calculates a life sentence as 45 years for the purpose of determining parole eligibility, the 22-year-old Harris will be nearly 60 years old before he is eligible for parole.
Image credit: Joe Gratz