BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — When the door to her apartment burst open and bullets started flying, Johniece Williams flung herself across her children.
Six bullets entered Williams, who was pregnant at the time. One round hit her 5-year-old son in the wrist.
And another round struck 3-year-old Major Sutton in the chest, killing him.
On Wednesday, Williams confronted the gunmen and gave a brief, emotional statement about the lasting pain they brought to her and her family.
“I really hate . . . I hate y’all,” Williams told Tyrone Johnson and David Palms. “Y’all took something from me that I can never get back.”
“I have to live with these bullets inside me and I just don’t think it’s fair,” she said, crying as she returned to her seat.
Johnson, 25, and Palms, 23, pleaded no contest in August to voluntary manslaughter and other charges filed in the Nov. 10, 2017, shooting on Pershing Street in central Bakersfield.
In line with the plea deals, Judge Colette M. Humphrey sentenced Johnson to 42 years and eight months and Palms to 27 years in prison.
Assistant District Attorney Joseph Kinzel said the deals were reached after examining the circumstances of the case and discussing it with the victims and their family, and with an understanding of the realities of the court system and how sentences play out in the state.
“Any time we have a case this tragic, in many respects there is no amount of time that is going to be enough,” Kinzel said. “Both of these men participated in the killing of a 3-year-old child.”
Nevertheless, Kinzel said he believes getting a combined seven decades in prison for the gunmen was an appropriate resolution.
Evidence developed slowly but a witness identified Palms as one of the shooters and Johnson days later was stopped in a car with a woman — Myeisha Dale — who had a gun in her purse, Kinzel said. That gun had Johnson’s DNA on it and was later matched to rounds fired in the apartment.
Palms and Johnson are members of the East Side Crips street gang and more information was obtained during a sweeping 10-month investigation into gang activity culminating in December 2017 with the arrests of more than 40 people on a variety of charges, including federal offenses.
One theory is Johnson and Palms broke into the apartment hoping to find and kill a rival gang member.
In all, the investigation into Major’s death resulted in charges against three suspects: Johnson, Palms and Dale, the alleged getaway driver.
Charges were dismissed against Dale after the 33-year-old died last year while in custody. Coroner’s reports say she died of natural causes.
In court, Kinzel said there was a pause between when the apartment door was kicked in to when the shooting began.
He said a man entered the hallway outside the bedroom where Williams was lying on a bed with her children. The bedroom light was on.
The man hesitated, not long, but long enough to see a woman and children were in the room, the prosecutor said.
And he opened fire anyway.