Emotional statements draw tears at sentencing in EMT’s death
In a courtroom lightly filled by family members of the victim and accused, Taaron Bragg was sentenced Thursday to a maximum of 13 years in state prison for the December 2014 shooting death of Camilo Senchyna-Beltran outside a Mission District nightclub.
Bragg was charged with murdering the 26-year-old off-duty emergency medical technician, who was shot in the chest by a single shot during an altercation outside of Bruno’s at Mission and 20th Streets. Senchyna-Beltran, an aspiring fire fighter, died from his injuries at San Francisco General Hospital.
Judge Geraldo Sandoval, who presided over the case, read out the sentencing Thursday after Bragg reached a plea bargain after a lengthy pre-trial process. The lowest possible three-year felony voluntary manslaughter sentence was handed down to Bragg, along with 10 years for carrying a firearm, the maximum sentence.
Bragg also pleaded guilty to felony grand theft for a separate crime which led to his arrest, netting him an additional three years to be served concurrently.
To the surprise of many of Senchyna-Beltran’s friends and family in attendance, Bragg delivered a statement before they were given a chance to read out their victim impact statements.
The soft-spoken 25-year-old read a letter he had prepared with clear emotion in his voice. He spoke about the regret he’s carried for more three years stemming from the December 7, 2014 slaying. Bragg mumbled, then adjusted his microphone and restarted his statement:
“If I had the power to turn back time I would. I’m not a criminal, I’m 25 years old and have never been convicted in my life. My brother died in my hands and I am still not over it at all. I’ve learned that this nightmare will never end. Please try to find it in your hearts to forgive me.”
Just before Clare Senchyna, the mother of Camilo, walked up to read a victim impact statement, one of the family members present for Bragg stormed out of the courtroom. Bragg himself looked straight ahead, and then down for the duration of her statement.
Over sobs from the close friends and family members she brought with her, Senchyna read her statement, loudly and clearly, her voice not changing or breaking until right near the end, where she fought back tears.
“Most parents feel that their children are the center of their lives, Camilo was my only child, he was more than the center of my life, he was my life. The day he was shot dead I also died … The impact of Camilo’s death on my life? Shattered is too mild a word. My life as I knew it is over. I no longer have my son. I will never have grandchildren. I never returned to my profession that I loved so well.”
The members of Bragg’s family that remained in the courtroom looked down somberly. At the end of her statement, Senchyna read a letter from her son he had written the day he started his paramedic program.
In the letter, Senchyna-Beltran wrote:
“This next challenge will be the hardest to accomplish. But, it will also be the most rewarding. The vision I have in a career is right there for me to grab and I’m glad you will be there to see it. Love, your son Camilo.”
After Senchyna, two aunts and another close family friend also read statements.
A theme among the statements was that Bragg could find redemption and find purpose with his life — something Senchyna-Beltran could no longer do.
After audibly crying earlier in the sentencing, Ruth Senchyna, 58, sister to Clare, was next. She directed her letter to only Bragg, but started rushing her statement before the judge asked her to slow down and start again. Senchyna composed herself and strongly read the entirety of her statement.
Ruth Senchyna said:
“You almost lost your life due to a gun while your brother lost his. You’ve been given a gift of a second chance; a gift Camilo will not get, so I implore you to not waste yours. Make something of your self, reject the culture of violence.”
On the redeeming message of the impact statements, Mary Senchyna, 56 said outside the courtroom:
“We were raised with the perspective that every life is valuable. It’s a reflection of us and our values.”
As the sentencing concluded, Bragg stood up, looked and waved at the emotional family he had left in the courtroom. The family left with tears in their eyes as Bragg was taken back by the bailiff.
Outside of the courtroom, Clare Senchyna reflected on what she deemed to be a light first sentence.
Senchyna, who has advocated for stricter gun control in the past, volunteering for anti-gun advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, said:
“California and San Francisco have such strong gun laws. Someone can bring a stolen gun and then only gets 13 years? That’s what a life is worth?”
Relived the case was finally over, Senchyna said she will still carry the weight of the case with her.
Senchyna calmly said:
“I hope to never step foot in this building, I hope to leave The City and not return.”