Gamez found guilty, sentenced to life in prison
A jury found Gabriel James Gamez guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Pennsylvania high school football player Darrell Turner in 2011.
The moment the clerk read the verdict, Durham County deputies closed in on Gamez and handcuffed him.
Then Superior Court Judge Paul Gessner sentenced Gamez to life in prison, the automatic prison sentence in North Carolina if a person is found guilty of first-degree murder. After the sentencing, even as the judge thanked the jurors for their service, the deputies re-cuffed Gamez and led him out of the courtroom.
The jurors returned a mix set of verdicts on the other 10 charges Gamez was facing.
When the clerk read the verdict sheets, she began reading the verdict sheets for attempted murder of the other football players who were with Turner that night. One by one, she read that Gamez was found not guilty of the attempted murders of Thomas Woodson, Dustin Creel, Isaiah Faulk, Robert Foster and Jaylen Coleman.
Then the clerk read the verdict sheet for the assault on Thomas Woodson, and she announced the jury had found Gamez guilty of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. That was followed by four guilty verdicts for assault with a deadly weapon for shooting at the four football players who were not hit by bullets.
Lastly, the clerk read the verdict sheet for the first-degree murder charge in the death of Turner, and when she said guilty, Turner’s sister gasped loudly, and Turner’s parents began to hug each other.
After the jurors were excused, Rickey Padgett, the Durham County sheriff’s captain who was working off duty that night and the first person to reach Turner after he was shot, hugged Turner’s mother, Rose Marie Turner.
Padgett testified he held Darrell Turner’s hand as Turner was dying and urged him to hang on for his mother, but said he saw Turner take his last breath.
With tears rolling down her face, Rose Marie Turner thanked him repeatedly as they hugged, for his testimony and for all the help he gave her son and her family.
Meanwhile, Gamez’s mother and sister, who had attended each day of the nine-day trial left the courtroom without speaking with tears in their eyes.
In the hallway outside of the courtroom, Darrell Turner Sr. and Rose Marie Turner spoke to the media, who crowded around asking questions.
When their son was murdered, they said they initially didn’t believe it was racially motivated but several weeks before the trial and during the testimony, they heard about the statements Gamez made about an hour before the shooting.
“Race has reared its ugly head again,” Darrell Turner Sr. said. “It had to do with race, I believe.”
Darrell Turner Sr., thanked the prosecutors, Roger Echols and Josephine Kerr, as well as the original prosecutor, Theresa Pressley, the Durham Police Department and the people of Durham. “The people of Durham throughout this whole ordeal, they truly made us feel at home,” he said. “They didn’t know our son but from day one, they made sure that justice would be done.”
The family received countless phone calls from people in Durham offering support, he said.
“They truly care about our son; we appreciate that,” he said.
Rose Marie Turner said the family relied on God for support.
“God is good,” she said. “ ‘Vengeance is mine,’ saith the Lord, and I truly believe that.”
Darrell Turner and Woodson attended Gateway High School in Pennsylvania, and as word spread of the guilty verdicts, his friends and members of the Gateway Gators football family began celebrating, according to Twitter messages.
“We have been celebrating and thanking God,” one message said.
“A lot of tears of joy up here as the word is getting out to everyone,” a second Twitter message said.
Former Gateway football coach Terry Smith said he and Darrell Turner’s family are pleased with the outcome.
“We are extremely happy with the verdict,” Smith said. “We are happy justice prevailed. But it is a small consolation because it will not bring him back. The legal system served its purpose, and this guy will not walk the streets again. We are glad everything worked out.”
Smith also said he spoke with Woodson, who was with Turner when he was killed and was wounded in the leg. Woodson testified during the trial.
“I let him (Woodson) know I am proud of him,” Smith said. “It had to be tough to relive that moment.”
Jaymar Parrish, who was with Turner when he was shot, also said he was happy with the verdict.
During the trial, the football players who were with Turner testified that they were on an all-star seven-on-seven football team and that they were traveling to Florida for a tournament. They stopped for the night in Durham with plans to visit Duke and UNC the next morning before continuing down to Florida.
On the night of June 23, 2011, after checking into their hotel near the interchange of Interstate 40 and U.S. 15-501, a group of the players walked over to Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which was across the street from their hotel, ate dinner and began walking back to their hotel.
Some were laughing and joking with each other, and some were talking on their cell phones, when they passed a lone individual walking in the opposite direction.
After they passed him, they heard him asking who hit him with something. They testified they were confused and turned around to see what he was asking about. Gamez began cursing and using racial slurs, they said.
Turner, who was the last person in the group of football players and was closest to Gamez, engaged in a verbal argument with Gamez, also using obscenities, they said.
Turner, who had a cup from the restaurant, threw it down on the ground in front of Gamez, and that’s when Gamez pulled up his shirt and showed he had a gun in his waistband, they said.
They turned around and began running away, they said.
Turner, however, fell to the ground with gunshot wounds. The medical examiner testified that Turner was shot on the back, and a bullet pierced his heart, and another bullet entered the back of his leg breaking his femur.
Woodson also sustained a leg wound but was able to run across the street to safety.
Two young Outback restaurant workers testified they met Gamez when he came into the restaurant with his family that night about an hour before the shooting. In a conversation, they said he used racial slurs, showed he had a gun and said he would shoot any black people who said anything to him or his family.
One of the young women testified Gamez said he could never live in North Carolina because of black people "on their high horses.”
Gamez was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in the North Carolina Department of Corrections.
Karen Zapf, staff writer for Trib Total Media, contributed to this report.