By Don Thompson Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A man in the United States illegally was convicted Friday of killing two Northern California deputies in a case that helped fuel the national immigration debate.
Luis Bracamontes was found guilty of murder in the shootings of Sacramento County sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver and Placer County sheriff’s Detective Michael Davis Jr. in 2014. He also was convicted of attempted murder, carjacking, weapons violations and other crimes.
“Yay,” he said softly after first verdict read, looking around at the victims’ families and jurors with a slight smile.
“I’m going to kill more cops soon,” Bracamontes said later as he was led away from the courtroom that had heavy security.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Bracamontes, who has repeatedly blurted out in court that he killed the deputies and wished he had killed more. The penalty phase of his trial starts March 5.
Defense attorneys, who declined to comment after the verdict, argued that Bracamontes was mentally ill and high on methamphetamine during the shootings and should be spared. A judge found Bracamontes competent to stand trial and he refused to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
Family members of the victims didn’t speak to reporters after the hearing.
Bracamontes is a Mexican citizen who repeatedly entered the United States illegally.
President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign aired a 30-second ad last month featuring Bracamontes and accusing Democrats of being “complicit” in the slayings of law enforcement officers by people in the U.S. illegally.
It was released on the anniversary of Trump’s inauguration amid a government shutdown sparked by Democrats’ refusal to support a spending plan unless Republicans agreed to protect hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.
Public defenders Jeffrey Barbour and Norm Dawson argued unsuccessfully that anti-immigrant sentiment prompted by Trump made it unlikely that Bracamontes could get a fair trial.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones called Bracamontes a “despicable human being” regardless of his immigration status.
Jones, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress, waged a public campaign against the immigration policies of former Democratic President Barack Obama after the deputies were killed.
“The fact that he’s an illegal alien or an undocumented immigrant, been removed four times, that doesn’t make him evil. He is evil because he’s a despicable human being that just happens to be here illegally,” Jones said after the verdict.
A separate jury is considering whether Bracamontes’ wife, Janelle Monroy, an American citizen, should be convicted of murder. She has contended that she was a victim of her abusive and paranoid husband who frequently used meth, marijuana and alcohol during a meandering journey across several western states, from their home in Utah to Sacramento.
Investigators said he shot Oliver outside a Sacramento motel on Oct. 24, 2014, triggering a manhunt and chase that lasted hours and spanned 30 miles (48 kilometers). It ended after authorities say he shot Davis and surrendered following a lengthy standoff.
Bracamontes has shouted in court that he is guilty and asked to be put to death. He has threatened to kill his defense attorneys and more deputies, and once had to be restrained after the judge ruled that he can’t fire his lawyers.