LOS ANGELES — A man who fired 50 rounds at a Valley Village memorial gathering in April 2010, killing four people and wounding two others, was convicted of first-degree murder and other counts and faces a possible death sentence.
Jurors deliberated for about 3 1/2 days before convicting Nerses Galstyan, 32, of two counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder, one count of voluntary manslaughter, two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter and one count of mayhem on Tuesday, March 15.
The penalty phase of his trial is scheduled to begin March 28, when the nine-man, three-woman jury will be asked to recommend whether Galstyan should be sentenced to death or to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
During the trial, Deputy District Attorney Thomas Trainor told jurors that Galstyan carried out an ambush “on an unsuspecting group of friends mourning the loss of a loved one.”
It was undisputed during the trial that Galstyan shot and killed Hayk Yegnanyan, 25, Sarkis Karadjian, 26, Harut Baburyan, 28, and 31-year-old Vardan Tofalyan, who the defense called Galstyan’s best friend, at the Hot Spot restaurant on April 3, 2010.
Defense attorney Alex Kessel argued, however, that the shooting was carried out in self-defense. He said Yegnanyan pulled a knife on Galstyan’s brother, Sam, outside the restaurant prior to the shooting. He said his client defused the situation by picking up Yegnanyan, hoisting him over his shoulder and turning in circles before putting him down.
After Galstyan picked up Yegnanyan, Yegnanyan called Karadjian and Baburyan, who came armed to the memorial gathering, according to Kessel.
“My client, Nerses Galstyan, was the one targeted that day,” Kessel said, telling the jury that Galstyan only fired when Karadjian pulled a gun on him.
During the trial, Galstyan and his brother testified that Yegnanyan had been pressing Sam to run drugs through his motorcycle club, leading to escalating tension between the three men.
But Trainor insisted that Galstyan “walked in ready to fire, bullet already in the chamber, no safety on.” The prosecutor said Galstyan “began firing as he walked in … round after round after round after round .. pausing to reload … stopping only when he ran out of bullets.”
Karadjian “is never able to chamber a round,” according to the prosecutor.
Sam Galstyan was not charged in the shooting.