Teen gets 24 years for murder outside Richfield school

A vigil lies outside of South Education Center
A vigil lies outside of South Education Center in Richfield on Feb. 1, 2022 to honor Jahmari Rice, who was shot and killed outside of the school. On Wednesday, the 19-year-old shooter was sentenced to 24 years.
Tim Evans for MPR News

A Hennepin County judge on Wednesday sentenced a 19-year-old man to 24 years for the fatal shooting of a teen last year outside a Richfield school.

Fernando Valdez-Alvarez of Minneapolis previously pleaded guilty to second-degree unintentional murder and first-degree assault in shooting and killing 15-year-old Jahmari Rice and wounding a 17-year-old outside the South Education Center in Richfield on Feb. 1, 2022.

Valdez-Alvarez must serve 16 years of his 24-year sentence in prison before he's eligible for supervised release.

Even though a conviction for intentional murder would likely result in a similar sentence, Jahmari's father Cortez Rice said the defendant's plea to unintentional murder let him evade responsibility.

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"Just the fact of him saying that he didn't intend to kill my son, but you shoot two kids in the chest. Well what do you think is going to happen?" Rice said, adding that he believes Valdez-Alvarez deserves life in prison.

Authorities said Valdez-Alvarez and another teen, Alfredo Rosario Solis, were involved in a fight with three fellow students outside the school. The charges did not say what led to the fight.

According to the criminal complaints, a 17-year-old boy punched Rosario Solis before Valdez-Alvarez opened fire.

The students knew each other and the shooting was not random, Richfield’s police chief told reporters last year following the shooting, describing it as an altercation that spilled outside the school and ended in gunfire.

South Education Center officials at the time said the shooting traumatized students at the school, which is part of District 287, a regional district in the Twin Cities for children with specialized educational needs or other challenges.

In January, Rosario Solis, now age 20, received a three-year sentence. A jury convicted him of second-degree assault with a weapon but found him not guilty of murder and first-degree assault in Jahmari Rice’s killing.