Dennis Bendy was found guilty in the murder of Briana Young on Aug. 12. Young was killed during a gang shootout at P.T. Cole Park in Tyler. Bendy's defense attorney said during Thursday's sentencing hearing that he would file an appeal.
During final arguments in the case, Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham told jurors they had a responsibility to help end gang violence.
“[The gangs] are paying attention. They do wait and see… What is the Tyler Police Department going to do? What's the D.A.'s office going to do? What's the community going to do? They know already about this verdict,” he said.
“You've been given a glimpse into a world that probably most of you all have heard about, but did not know happened here in Tyler where gangs bring their fights to the streets and make our public parks a battle ground,” Bingham told the jury.
Judge Jack Skeen agreed Thursday, saying gangs don't own the parks or the city of Tyler. He said Bendy acted with total disregard for human life.
Noel Caldwell, a pastor who's known Bendy since he was 10, testified that Bendy was involved in the church.
"I think he's a nice young man, truthfully," Caldwell said, adding that the conviction had not changed his opinion of Bendy. Caldwell said he believed Bendy could be a productive citizen.
One year ago, hundreds of candles were lit at a vigil for Briana Young at the same park where she lost her life. Back then, her uncle said he hoped that vigil would help bring justice for Briana. Bingham says that justice has finally been served.
“I said that one year ago when this happened that we were going to aggressively prosecute the individuals that did this because they do turn our public parks [and] our streets into a shooting gallery,” he said.
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