A state appeals court panel Wednesday upheld a repeat DUI offender’s conviction for driving drunk and causing a fiery wrong-way crash on the Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach that left one man dead and another seriously injured nearly three years ago.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found there was “undisputed evidence” that Alvin Ray Shaw Jr. had a prior DUI conviction in which he acknowledged the dangers associated with drunken driving and that there was no evidence that even suggested he drank alcohol the day of the crash without knowing that he would be driving.
The Hawthorne man was convicted last year of second-degree murder and driving when his privilege was suspended or revoked for a DUI conviction, along with two DUI counts stemming from the Aug. 1, 2015, crash that killed san Pedro resident Miguel Gonzalez, a 30-year-old married father of two young children.
Jurors also found Shaw guilty of two misdemeanor DUI counts and one misdemeanor count of driving with a suspended or revoked license for a June 14, 2015, crash in which his vehicle was struck by another car on the side of a freeway in Pasadena.
Shaw is serving a 30-year-to-life state prison sentence.
In its 19-page ruling, the appellate court panel rejected the defense’s contention that jurors should have been instructed that they could find that Shaw committed involuntary manslaughter by reason of unconsciousness caused by voluntary intoxication.
“The strength of the evidence defendant was conscious, and that he acted with a conscious disregard for life, persuades us there was no prejudice,” the panel ruled. “Defendant began driving after being parked for less than five minutes. After initially driving onto the sidewalk, he brought the car back down to the street. As defendant drove, he evaded multiple barricades and avoided hitting people in his path.”
The justices noted that Shaw accelerated and tried to flee when he was pursued by a Long Beach Police Department motorcycle officer who saw the silver Mercedes-Benz veer onto the sidewalk and toward the course for a Special Olympics marathon event that morning.
Shaw subsequently blew through a barricade and drove the wrong way on the Gerald Desmond Bridge, smashing into vehicles driven by Gonzalez and another unsuspecting motorist, Deputy District Attorney Rachel Hardiman said.
A Long Beach police officer got fire extinguishers from motorists who had stopped nearby to try to douse a fire in Gonzalez’s truck, and other officers tried unsuccessfully to pull the man from his vehicle before it was engulfed in flames.
Gonzalez died of blunt force trauma before the fire. A 21-year-old man in the other vehicle that was struck was seriously injured.
Shaw’s blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.20 percent — 2 1/2 times the legal amount considered impaired, the prosecutor said.
About 1 1/2 months before the deadly crash, Shaw was found “passed out” when his vehicle was struck on the side of the freeway in Pasadena in June 2015 and had no idea why he was there, Hardiman told jurors. His blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.19 — more than twice the legal limit — on that occasion.
Shaw — who had been placed on probation in April 2014 in a DUI case — had been advised that he could be charged with murder if he drove under the influence and killed someone, Hardiman said.
At his March 2017 sentencing, Shaw said he was “deeply sorry.”
“Because of my actions, someone died,” he said then. “Believe me, it wasn’t on purpose. I would do anything to take back that morning … I made a terrible mistake that I’m not proud of, but I’m no murderer.”
Gonzalez’s widow, Silvia Lopez, said her husband’s death had “left a big emptiness in me and my children as I have no words to explain it.”
At the same hearing, Shaw’s sister pleaded with Superior Court Judge Michael D. Abzug to show mercy to her brother and thanked police officers for going to her brother’s aid and risking their own lives to save him after the crash.