43-Year-Old Man Convicted of Fatally Shooting Santa Monica Teen After Chance Encounter, Brief Argument

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A man faces up to 40 years to life in prison after a jury convicted him of the fatal 2017 shooting of a recent Santa Monica High School graduate, authorities said.

Sherwin Mendoza Espinosa, 43, is seen in a booking photo released Aug. 22, 2018, by Santa Monica police.

Sherwin Mendoza Espinosa, 43, is seen in a booking photo released Aug. 22, 2018, by Santa Monica police.

The jury found Sherwin Mendoza Espinosa, 43, guilty of second-degree murder on Tuesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said Wednesday in a written statement. The Los Angeles jury also found true the special allegation that he personally used a handgun in the murder.

Juan Castillo, 18, of Santa Monica was found fatally wounded on Feb. 26, 2017, just outside the emergency room of UCLA Medical Center along 16th Street.

But Santa Monica Police Department investigators said they believe he was left there after being shot in the head while sitting in the passenger seat of a car parked in the 2100 block of Pico Boulevard about six hours earlier.

It did not appear Espinosa and Castillo knew one another prior to the shooting, DA's office spokesman Ricardo Santigo said. The shooting stemmed from a chance encounter and brief argument.

Juan Castillo is seen in an undated photo from a GoFundMe page.

"The defendant had a brief run in with the victim," Santiago said. Espinosa then went to his car, retrieved a gun and shot Castillo.

Detectives arrested Espinosa, from the Baldwin Hills area of L.A., in connection with the killing nearly three months later.

Castillo graduated from Santa Monica High School the summer before his death. He played football, and the school has since retired his number, 53.

His father, Jorge Castillo, said shortly after the killing that his son wanted to join the U.S. Marines.

Espinosa is due back in court for sentencing on Oct. 12.

Editor's note: Espinosa was from the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles, a Santa Monica police sergeant told KTLA; the DA's office had initially said in error that he was from Santa Monica. This story has been updated with the correct information.

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