Gerald R. Grant would do anything if only he could go back in time, to that February evening in 2016 when he shot and killed three people inside an SUV in South Salt Lake.
He wishes he could bring them back, the 21-year-old man said, but he knows he can’t.
And as Grant apologized Thursday, before a judge sentenced him to prison for the deaths, he said he didn’t plan to fatally shoot 20-year-old Angel Lopez-Salinas, his 19-year-old brother, Lauro Raul Lopez-Salinas, and 17-year-old Armando Cuenca-Curiel.
“I need you all to know these were not my intentions that night,” Grant said. “None of it. We were all just kids, we were all young.”
Grant pleaded guilty last month to three counts of second-degree manslaughter, admitting he killed the three on Feb. 18, 2016. He had claimed he fired his gun in self-defense.
Third District Judge Vernice Trease ordered the three one-to-15-year terms to run consecutively and imposed firearms enhancements, which brought each count to two-to-20 years for a total of six-to-60 years. However, due to a statutory limit, Grant will serve a maximum of 30 years behind bars.
Defense attorneys wrote in court papers that Cuenca-Curiel had told a friend that they had planned to rob Grant that night, because Grant had previously robbed them during a marijuana buy. Prosecutors say Grant also had intended to rob the three, as he had done to others several times in the weeks and months before the fatal shooting.
“Each trigger pull were choices he made,” Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Matthew Janzen argued Thursday. “… The only person responsible is the defendant.”
The mothers of the slain spoke Thursday in court, asking what their children did to deserve to be shot and killed that day.
Martha Lopez, the mother of the two brothers who were killed, said her sons had many dreams that they can now never accomplish.
“I would like to say I could forgive him,” she said of Grant through a Spanish interpreter. “But I can’t. But I’ll ask God to forgive him.”
Grant’s mother also spoke, asking the courts for mercy for her only son, and telling the mothers of those killed that she can’t imagine the grief they’re experiencing.
“I pray that your hearts will soften,” Patricia Mason said, “and you’ll have mercy and forgive my son Gerald with time.”
During a 2016 preliminary hearing, witnesses testified that Grant and the victims were planning to rob each other during a meet-up to sell marijuana.
In the end, Grant left the SUV with a gunshot wound in the leg. Cuenca-Curiel was shot in the side, and died in the SUV that was parked in the road at 325 E. Park Creeke Lane (3060 South). The two brothers were each shot in the head, and died later at a local hospital.
A second man, 23-year-old Mahad Abdirashid Omar, is charged as an accomplice in the three deaths — accused of setting up the drug buy and helping Grant leave the area after the shooting. Omar is charged with three counts of murder and one count of aggravated robbery. His case is pending.