The man authorities believe supplied the handgun used in a 2016 drive-by shooting that killed a 5-year-old Beloit boy will serve 15 years in prison, a Rock County judge ruled Friday.
Judge Michael Haakenson handed Isaac Torres, 27, of Beloit the maximum sentence for his role in the January 2016 death of Austin Ramos Jr., who prosecutors say was shot as he rode in a vehicle driven by his father.
It’s the third sentencing in the case and the second time this month Haakenson has handed down a stiff sentence for people charged in the shooting. He said it should serve as a warning to criminals who would commit “gang-related” gun violence or take the law into their own hands.
The sentencing came after Ramos’ mother, Jasmin Martinez, and his grandmother, Alicia Martinez, spoke in court of the pain they’ve had to relive through multiple hearings on the 5-year-old’s death—a crime Rock County Assistant District Attorney Mason Braunschweig called “an incredible tragedy.”
“I don’t know that there’s a worse crime in this world” than the killing of a child, Braunschweig said Friday as he asked for the maximum sentence.
Torres is one of four men charged in the shooting. He and two others, Hugo Martinez and Eric Salazar-Mota, pleaded guilty to party to second-degree reckless homicide.
Salazar-Mota was sentenced to 14 years in prison and 10 years of extended supervision for riding in the vehicle Sergio R. Ortiz, 26, was in when he shot a .357-caliber bullet through the door of the vehicle Ramos was riding in.
The bullet traveled through the boy’s side, and he died the same day “on a cold hospital table” after “battling for his life” for three hours, Braunschweig said.
Ortiz pleaded guilty to first-degree reckless homicide and was sentenced Nov. 9 to 40 years in prison plus 20 years of extended supervision.
On Friday, Braunschweig said authorities believe—based on witness accounts—that Torres brought the revolver used in the shooting and that Torres had been riding in the front passenger seat with the gun in his lap.
Braunschweig said investigations showed Torres put the gun on the floor of the car before Ortiz grabbed it, hung out the window and shot at the car where the boy was.
In statements to police, Torres did not admit he had brought a gun that day, and he has never admitted bringing a gun, Braunschweig said. Torres’ statements helped bring justice in the killing, but Braunschweig said he believes Torres’ claims that he didn’t bring the gun are a “glaring lie.”
“It was Torres’ revolver. He brought it. He put it on the floorboard,” Braunschweig said. “He wants us to believe he was deaf, dumb and blind that night. It’s not true. He didn’t take full responsibility for what he did.”
During some of his more than 1,000 days in jail, Torres has sought to avoid contact with others charged in the shooting.
That’s because Torres said he wanted to dissolve gang ties he had maintained from 2008 to 2016 through his association with Ortiz, a suspected gang member, according to investigations of a string of earlier crimes Torres had been charged with, Braunschweig said.
Torres fled to Illinois before talking to police, Braunschweig and Haakenson said Friday. He also has tried to downplay his past gang involvement with Ortiz and others, they said.
Before his arrest, Torres had phone and Facebook discussions about plans to get rid of two guns that were in the vehicle when Ramos was shot—including the revolver used in the shooting, Braunschweig said.
One of the plans, he said, was to trade the guns to someone who was selling a car on Craigslist.
Before pronouncing his sentence, Haakenson outlined the history of criminal charges Torres faced over a nine-year span prior to the 2016 shooting, including the brutal beating of a man after an argument over a billiards game among gang members.
In addition to a 15-year prison sentence, Torres must serve 10 years of extended supervision. Haakenson said he doesn’t buy Torres’ story that he didn’t bring the gun used in the shooting.
Haakenson said he’s convinced Torres “was part of a group think” in a plan to avenge an earlier shooting that killed one of Ortiz’s relatives.
Haakenson said Torres’ record and association with Ortiz makes it clear he was a gang member and the shooting was gang-related.
He called Torres “significantly responsible” for providing what became the murder weapon in the shooting of a child.
Torres’ attorney, Ashley Morse, said her client has worked to sever ties with gang life and those charged in the shooting.
She asked for a lighter sentence, saying it was Ortiz’s decision to pick up the gun and shoot someone.
Torres apologized to Ramos’ family, telling them “no child deserves to die.”