16-Year-Old Gang Member Gets 90 Years for Killing 1-Year-Old: Too Harsh?

gunsThis is one of those stories that's just sad all the way around. Last June, 15-year-old Donald Ray Dokins fatally shot Angel Cortez Nava, a 1-year-old baby boy, in the stomach as his father Mauro Cortez cradled his beautiful son in his arms. (Cortez, 24, was shot in the shoulder.)

The shooting was evidently gang-related, but Cortez was not part of a gang. Dokins rode his bike up to a crowd in a South Los Angeles neighborhood and opened fire. He mistakenly believed Cortez was in a rival gang because of the color of his T-shirt.

The day after his son's death, Mauro Cortez sought the public's help in finding the shooter and city groups offered $50,000 rewards for information leading to the shooter's arrest. Dokins was apprehended a few weeks later.

And yesterday Dokins, now just 16, was sentenced to 90 years in prison. He was charged and tried as an adult.

Was that really the answer here?

The loss of a child so young and innocent is something it's hard to wrap one's head around and Angel's parents's pain is unimaginable.

Still, a 15-year-old is really just a kid. And now that kid's life is essentially over too. Donald Ray Dokins will spend the rest of his life in prison. This is a kid who was in a gang. A kid who had a gun. A kid who was so immature, he thought someone should die because of the color of his T-shirt.

It raises so many questions. How was Dokins failed so miserably as a child? Where were his parents, his teachers, his community, and social services? When exactly was this kid let down? Was there no one who reached out to him? What is being done about gangs and gang violence? How can we help our young people? What happened to Dokins over his short lifetime that he lost his ability to empathize? (The judge says he shot the baby twice!)

And of course the BIG question: How did Dokins get a gun? Why are there no background checks? With so many children dying at the hands of guns in this country, why don't we as citizens and mothers demand that something be done?

This is a senseless crime and one that could have been prevented. But that prevention should have started 15 years ago, when Dokins was a baby. We failed him -- and now as he goes to jail for 90 years, we will, quite literally, pay that price.

There is no happy ending here. The Cortez family has lost their Angel. Society has failed yet another at-risk youth. No lesson regarding gun control has been learned. Guns will continue to kill our innocent children for as long as we let them. And yes, it IS the guns, stupid.

Since the Newtown shootings 6 months ago, more people have died at the hand of a gun than we lost in Afghanistan in the past 12 years. Repeat: More children have been killed in our country with guns in the past 6 months than American soldiers were killed during the war in Afghanistan -- over the past 12 years. Can you moms live with that?

Demand legislation, and demand it now.


Do you think Dokins' 90 year sentence was too little or too much?


Image via M Glasgow/flickr

crime, guns, racism


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Maddo... Maddogsmommy

15 is young, yes and he probably had a dysfunctional life, but he knew what he was doing and still killed a baby! The sentence is fair. My ten year old neice has had it rough also but she knows very well that it is wrong to kill.

Chana... Chanandler.Bong

There is legislation on guns.  Criminals (which is what these gang members are) find ways around the rules, because they are criminals and break the law.  Surely you understand this.  To answer your question, no, this is not too harsh a sentence.  Perhaps this guy is able to rehabilitate, but the message needs to be sent to gang members that there will be harsh penalties for their actions.  Maybe then violence will decrease.

nonmember avatar AmericanExpat

You stupid liberals give free passes to all criminals! I don't care if he was only 15, he MURDERED a child, period! I f'ing knew killing was VERY wrong when I was 5, this MURDERER knew it was wrong, he knew exactly what he was doing! I think he should get the death penalty personally! It is because of liberals like you that criminals run rampant in this country. Do the world and the country a favor, shut up!

LadyM... LadyMinni

Not harsh enough. Death penalty. We need to send a message to these "gangstas" so that maybe they'll get it through their heads that we won't tolerate this behavior.

insei... inseineangel

When you not only decide to take the life of another, but go through with the actions, you forfeit your right to life. The Stir community flip-flops on their stances when it comes to age. Your 3 year old should no better than to make a scene in public. Your 1 year old is too young to understand. Your 12 year old is still innocent. Your 15 year old should know the difference between right and wrong.

15 years old. That is old enough to know that taking a life is WRONG. That violence is WRONG. 15 years old. That is old enough to understand the meaning of "consequence", and that every action has them. 15 years old. Still a child in so many ways. 

bills... billsfan1104

Awwww poor baby. Are you really saying that he deserves a lesser sentence?? He got a gun ILLEGALLY. No amount of background checks and more legislation would of stopped him. He is a punk ass kid who opened fire on the dad because of a different colored shirt. He deserved to go to jail for life.

sassy... sassykat122

When did we stop being a country of personal accountability? This kid didnt rob a bank or beat someone up. He took a gun, walked up to a family, and KILLED A BABY. There is no coming back from death. That baby is gone, it is only right that the teenager spend what years he does have locked away.

bills... billsfan1104

Not one of you stir writers cared about gun violence in the "ghetto" until it happened in Newtown. Now all of a sudden you guys care. And then you blame the guns and want more legislation passed and then you want to feel sorry for the criminals. You are backasswards.

Blues... Blueshark77

He absolutely deserves those 90 years in prison. He killed a baby. There is no way to turn this story around about him having a tough life and make his actions seem like he couldn't distinguish between right and wrong. And about the gun legislation-criminals will still have guns. Why would they follow a gun legislation law when they don't abide by other laws?!

youth... youthfulsoul

I think he got what he deserved. 

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