LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A man who opened fire at a memorial event at a Valley Village restaurant, killing a close friend and three other people and wounding two others, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo said Nerses Galstyan engaged in an “unprovoked attack” and called the 33-year-old defendant’s actions “calculated,” “callous” and “extremely violent.”
She said the defense’s argument that the April 3, 2010, shooting was carried out in self-defense had too many holes to make sense, noting that some of the victims were shot in the back.
Galstyan was convicted in March of two counts of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of Vardan Tofalyan, 31, and Harut Baburyan, 28, along with one count of second-degree murder for the killing of Hayk Yegnanyan, 25, and one count of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Sarkis Karadjian, 26.
He was also found guilty of two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter, along with one count of aggravated mayhem, involving two other victims who survived. One of the men lost an eye, and the other has a bullet which remains lodged two inches from his spine, according to Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Chung.
The nine-man, three-woman jury found true the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, and recommended in April that Galstyan be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole rather than the death penalty.
Yegnanyan’s mother, Araks Akopyan, told the judge that the family’s Easter celebration turned into grief when they got the news about her son’s killing. She said she misses her son more than words can describe.
“Everywhere I turn I can see the memories of my son … Pain consumes me,” she said.
Tofalyan’s mother, Emma, said she has been waiting six years for the closure of this “tragic case.” She called Galstyan a “cold-blooded killer” and said the sentence will “help ease our sorrow and pain.”
It was undisputed that Galstyan shot and killed Yegnanyan, Karadjian, Baburyan and Tofalyan, who was described as Galstyan’s best friend, at the Hot Spot restaurant on April 3, 2010.
Defense attorney Alex Kessel told jurors that Yegnanyan pulled a knife on Galstyan’s brother, Sam, outside the restaurant prior to the shooting.
Galstyan’s lawyer said his client tried to defuse the situation by picking up Yegnanyan, hoisting him over his shoulder and turning in circles before putting him down. Yegnanyan then 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.
But Deputy District Attorney Thomas 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 was “never able to chamber a round,” Trainor said.
After the shooting, Galstyan fled to a Seattle suburb, where he was arrested. He has remained jailed without bail since then.