Fast-forward to Aug. 13, 2005. Sammy was walking down an alley with Juan Pedroza, who had a distinctive limp from a childhood car accident, according to court documents. Diaz, Vega and Betancourt were nearby at a party when they spotted the two. Diaz asked if Pedroza was the “fool who ratted on Clumsy.” It’s unclear if they thought he was Victor Pedroza and mistakenly targeted him. “Let’s (mess) him up,” Betancourt said before he charged toward Pedroza. Betancourt threw the first punch, then Vega jumped in. Pedroza, who had a metal plate in his head, had little use of one arm. Sammy jumped in, trying to fend them off. Moments later, Diaz pulled out a gun and shot him in the head. During Thursday’s hearing, a bald-headed Diaz shot glances at rows of red-eyed relatives and smiled a few times while Vega kept his eyes focused ahead. Diaz’s attorney, Robert Schwartz, said trial witnesses contradicted each other, and his client was not involved in the shooting. “For my client to be convicted under this evidence is a miscarriage,” he said after the sentencing. But when Vega’s attorney asked the judge to reconsider his stiffer sentence, she said, “It’s one arrest after another. If he isn’t a perfect example of recidivism, I don’t know what is.” The lead investigator on the case, Los Angeles police Detective Steve Castro, called the outcome “a great day for justice. Gangs like to intimidate; they don’t like people speaking against them, making crime reports,” said Castro, who attended the sentencing. “It weakens their gang.” Bravo, a housekeeper, sat in the back of the courtroom as the judge spoke. Her stomach knotted. Her heart felt as if someone stepped on it. “It has been hard on me,” she said. “Since that day, I am not the same person anymore.” Afraid of retribution, she and her 13-year-old daughter moved from their North Hollywood home with the help of law enforcement. She was even escorted to her car Thursday by sheriff’s deputies for protection. At home, she keeps a candle burning next to her son’s photograph in her living room. Every birthday, every holiday, the sorrow begins anew. On that August night two years ago, she knew something was wrong. She had just arrived in California the year before after escaping an abusive husband in Texas and had tried so hard to protect her son from violence. “I felt something in my heart,” she said, recalling how she went searching the neighborhood for Sammy that night. “When I went to go look for him, I saw a lot of ambulance and police. They already had him in the bed. I was running and crying and they didn’t let me close to him.” At the hospital, she watched as he clung to life. “I told him how much I love him and I didn’t want to miss him, and not to go,” she said. He died 10 minutes later. [email protected] (818) 713-3741160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The day Leticia Bravo’s 15-year-old son was shot to death by gang members for trying to protect his disabled friend is the day her own slow death began. “They killed my son, but they killed me,” she said, tears welling in her eyes. “You don’t die immediately. The pain goes on and you die day by day.” Thursday, when a judge sentenced the two North Hollywood Boyz members to more than 40 years in prison each for killing Sammy Salas, Bravo said she had at least ended the most painful chapter of her life. “I hope some day they will be sorry,” she said. “I don’t know why they did it. It is nothing Sammy did to them.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp sentenced Enrique “Serio” Diaz, 32, to 40 years to life in prison for shooting Sammy in the head. Sammy had intervened when several other gangsters were beating up his disabled friend, Juan Pedroza, whom they considered a snitch for talking to police about another case. Luis “Wicked” Vega, 28, who participated in the killing, was sentenced to 55 years to life because he had a prior “strike” under the state’s “three strikes” law for using a cane to beat someone. Both maintain their innocence and will appeal, their attorneys said. Another defendant, Marcos “Shyster” Betancourt, who was 14 at the time and struck a deal with prosecutors to testify against Diaz and Vega, is awaiting sentencing. He likely will be sent to the California Youth Authority and be released when he is 25. Prosecutors called the case a classic example of gang intimidation and revenge that ended in the worst way. A few months before the killing, Pedroza’s brother Victor was harassed by Roberto “Clumsy” Fletes, a parolee and North Hollywood Boyz member. Fletes demanded Pedroza pay “taxes” because he believed he was selling drugs on the gang’s turf. But Victor Pedroza refused and went to the police to file a report against Fletes, eventually testifying against him at a parole hearing.