A gang member was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the 2005 murder of a rising college basketball star in an infamous murder that shook the Long Island campus to its core.
Nearly two decades after the shooting death of 23-year-old Brooklyn native Tafare Berryman, killed after a bar fight that he wasn't even a part of, Jaime Rivera received his punishment Friday after spending 12 years dodging justice.
Berryman, a ball player at C.W. Post College, was two weeks from graduating when he was killed. Prosecutors said he was shot as he tried to take a friend to the hospital after a fight at a Long Island nightclub on April 3, 2005.
The sentencing was bittersweet for Berryman's mother, Dawn Thompson.
"My baby was doing the right thing. Going to college, about to graduate in two weeks, and he killed him. You know that pain will not go away. As a mother, you don't know you have an emptiness in your life and your stomach," she said after the hearing. "But my God, it's real and I thank him for everything that happened today."
A member of the Latin Kings gang, Rivera previously pleaded guilty to murder for the shooting that he said he did to "maintain my position" in the gang. Prosecutors said Rivera mistakenly thought Berryman had been part of a brawl outside the club involving gang members.
Rivera was arrested in 2017 after acquaintances told investigators he had admitted to the shooting. The arrest brought closure to a case that was once featured on “America’s Most Wanted.”
In court on Friday, the convicted killer apologized to Berryman's family, and his own. He talked about how he's turned his life around behind bars, and that he is now an ordained minister.
Family of Rivera didn't speak while leaving court, but one of Berryman's brother's said "I want to remember my brother and I don't want to focus on his death anymore."
The judge in the case called Berryman an exceptionally gifted student and a star basketball player with lots of promise, who was murdered for no reason. Thompson said Rivera's actions shattered her family, and that she's moving forward after all these years — but still not ready to forgive, saying her pain will never heal.
"I don't think I can find forgiveness in my hear for it yet," Thompson said. "Because like he said, he never met Tarfare — he don't know him, and yet you kill him."