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Published: Wednesday, 10/9/2013

Toledoan guilty in drive-by shooting


A Toledo gang member who prosecutors said turned a beautiful day at the park into a nightmare was found guilty Wednesday by a jury in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

Benjamin Besteder, 19, of 523 Cadillac Ct. was convicted of three counts of felonious assault and one count of discharge of a firearm upon or over a public road or highway. Each charge included a firearms specification that will add a mandatory five years in prison to his sentence.

Besteder fired at least five gunshots from a car as it was passing the park at Forest and Grand avenues during a softball game May 25. Ernest Reed, 26, was wounded, and two shots struck a parked ice cream truck with two people — Egbert and Azzie Flanigan — inside.

“The brazen nature in which this crime was committed is truly horrifying,” Lindsay Navarre, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, said after the verdicts were announced. “It exposed completely innocent people to the gang violence that is plaguing our city.”

Besteder, who did not take the stand during his three-day trial, faces up to 37 years in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 29 by Judge Ruth Ann Franks.

His attorney, Adrian Cimerman, declined to comment afterward.

Mr. Cimerman told the jury during closing arguments Wednesday morning that there were “glaring holes” in the prosecution’s case, including the absence of the firearm used in the shooting, inconsistencies in eyewitness accounts, and a lack of scientific evidence that might have connected Besteder to the crime.

Ms. Navarre countered that the jury had heard all they needed to convict Besteder — a member of the X Blocc, a Crips gang — including the testimony of two witnesses who identified Besteder shortly after he was apprehended by Toledo police. His clothing, hair, and physical description matched, and he had gunshot residue on his hands, she said.

“Benjamin Besteder is the one who turned a beautiful Saturday softball game into a nightmare,” Ms. Navarre said. “Benjamin Besteder is the gang member who fired shot after shot after shot from a moving vehicle injuring Ernest Reed and nearly injuring Egbert and Azzie Flanigan.”

The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for three hours before returning the guilty verdicts.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.

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