BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — As the getaway driver in a 2016 gas station robbery that resulted in the deaths of a father and son, Jim Langston on Tuesday faced no alternative but life in prison without the possibility of parole.
And Judge John Oglesby said that’s exactly what he deserves.
“Mr. Langston, you’re responsible,” Oglesby said while looking at the defendant. “Whether you pulled the trigger or not.”
“In your eyes,” Langston responded.
The judge then imposed consecutive sentences of life without parole.
Although Langston remained in the car, he was convicted of two counts of murder under the state’s felony-murder rule, which says any major participant in an “inherently dangerous” crime that results in death can be charged with murder. With the two convictions, he faced consecutive life terms.
Before sentencing, Langston’s attorney asked the court to let the prison terms run concurrently. David Evers said his client would still serve life without parole, but letting the sentences run at the same time would be appropriate since the killings happened during the course of a single incident.
Oglesby rejected that argument.
He found the shootings of Heriberto Aceves, 60, and son Juan Luis Aceves, 27, involved different motivations. The gunman shot the elder Aceves after the shop owner pulled a gun, then shot the unarmed son in a different part of the store.
“The shooting of Heriberto Aceves is somewhat understandable from a robber’s point of view as someone who is trying to protect their property and their life, exercising their right to self-defense,” Oglesby said. “It’s not unexpected a gun battle would arise. But then to shoot an onlooker who is there in the store, in an entirely different part of the store, who is not a threat and who is actually being subdued by another member of the crew, is itself a callous and indifferent act.”
Oglesby noted Langston, 45, is significantly older than the 27-year-old gunman, Darnell Hammond. Both are members of the Country Boy Crips street gang.
Two other, unidentified men, also participated in the robbery.
Langston’s age and his serving as the driver suggest a leadership role in planning the crime, Oglesby said.
Hammond was sentenced earlier this month to life without parole.
Surveillance video captured Langston entering Quality Gas in Lamont about 15 minutes before the Oct. 14, 2016, robbery. He cashed a payroll check and scoped out the business, then left.
It was a Friday, when numerous payroll checks were cashed at Quality Gas. The robbers expected to get away with a considerable amount of money.
Three masked men entered the store, two carrying handguns, surveillance footage showed. They grabbed items and one man pistol whipped Juan Aceves several times. Heriberto Aceves was also pistol whipped.
Heriberto Aceves pulled a gun and immediately fell, the footage showed. He held the gun while on his back as Hammond shot him multiple times. He then turned the gun on Juan Aceves, firing multiple shots into him.
Both Heriberto and Juan Aceves died at the scene.
Hammond was arrested shortly afterward, still in possession of bloody cash he scooped up near Juan Aceves’ body. Langston was taken into custody several days later. DNA testing on multiple items tied them to the killings.
Several Aceves family members attended Hammond’s sentencing and spoke about the heartache he caused them.
Only Jeannette Acevez, daughter of Heriberto and sister of Juan, returned for Langston’s sentencing, saying she would serve as her family’s voice, that they didn’t need to relive the pain.
She told Langston she considered him just as responsible as Hammond for her loved ones’ deaths.
On that morning five years ago, Acevez said, she woke feeling it would be a good day. It soon devolved into the worst day of her life.
First she received a phone call telling her her father had been shot and killed. She rushed to the gas station, where she learned her brother had also been gunned down.
Acevez questioned how everything she had done in life had led to that moment. She treated others well, performed acts of kindness. How could God could betray her like this?
“But I needed to remember that it wasn’t God,” Acevez told the court. “This was Darnell and Langston’s…it wasn’t God’s work, it was their work.”