A 37-year-old man who fatally shot an ex-friend in a Jurupa Valley canal because the victim criticized him was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A Riverside jury in July convicted Shaun Daniel Tara of Jurupa Valley of first-degree murder for the slaying last year of 32-year-old Jeremy Amerson.
Along with the murder count, jurors found Tara guilty of attempted murder and a special circumstance allegation of killing a witness to a crime.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Matthew Perantoni imposed the sentence required by law during a hearing at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, the defendant and Amerson had been on good terms and regularly associated until two weeks before the deadly shooting.
On July 29, 2020, Tara got into a drug-related dispute with a man at an am/pm near the intersection of Bellegrave Avenue and Van Buren Boulevard in Jurupa Valley, culminating in him shooting the other man with a .22-caliber rifle, according to a trial brief filed by the prosecution.
The victim survived, and Tara was able to elude capture.
Amerson witnessed the attack and denounced Tara for perpetrating it, mainly because it drew unwanted attention to the nearby homeless encampment in the storm channel beneath the Van Buren Boulevard bridge, where Amerson stayed with his girlfriend.
In the ensuing days, the victim and Tara had several exchanges via social media regarding the shooting, with Amerson expressing his displeasure and Tara making threats. Amerson told him that they should settle their differences with fists, but Tara would not agree.
In the predawn hours of Aug. 17, 2020, Amerson parked his motorcycle in the canal under the Van Buren bridge and began tinkering with it when Tara suddenly appeared out of the shadows armed with a handgun, according to sheriff’s investigators.
The victim’s girlfriend, who was asleep in a tunnel, awoke and heard Amerson beg for his life, telling Tara, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” to which the defendant replied, “You ruined my life,” according to the prosecution’s brief.
Tara then fired two shots into the victim’s chest, killing him on the spot, prosecutors said.
The defendant fled the scene as the woman, whose identity was not released, and other transients called 911.
None of the witnesses were initially forthcoming about what had happened, fearing for their lives. However, after several weeks of interviews, detectives finally persuaded Amerson’s girlfriend and others to provide the necessary details, leading to the identification of Tara as the shooter, according to court papers.
He was taken into custody without a struggle on Aug. 27, 2020, and charged with both the canal killing and the other attack weeks earlier.
Tara has prior convictions for assault with a gun, being under the influence of a controlled substance, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and carrying a concealed weapon.