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Teenager found guilty of first-degree murder after Bethlehem fight

Published On: Apr 10 2014 04:03:22 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 11 2014 06:12:01 AM CDT

Jury to decide: calculated killer or scared kid?

EASTON, Pa. -

Amid tight courtoom security, jurors convicted a Bethlehem teenager of first-degree murder Thursday afternoon.

Fourteen different security guards stood watch as the verdict was read.

Lucas Cabassa was just 17 years old last July, when he shot and killed Joseph Rodriguez.

It happened during a late night fight at Bethlehem's Lynfield Homes development.

Cabassa claimed he killed in self-defense.

He testified that the victim was a member of the Latin Kings gang.

Cabassa claimed the victim and his friends approached him and he feared for his life.

"He was scared," said Cabassa's mother, Dorinda Paterson. "He was 17. There's grown men -- 25, 30 years old -- coming after him, with guns in their pockets. How the [expletive] are you going to see guns?"

Police and witnesses testified that no one else at the scene was seen with a gun.

Prosecutors called Cabassa a "tough guy" who carried a loaded .22 caliber handgun in his pocket all day, even showing it off to friends.

They also noted that the victim was shot from at least 20 feet away, and only shot once -- directly in the head.

"We got justice. He got what he deserved," said the victim's sister, Limary Rodriguez. "If two other guys are coming up to you, why are you going to shoot somebody who was 20, 25 feet away from you, not even coming at you?"

After the verdict was read, Cabassa yelled to his family, "I love you."

Cabassa's father yelled back, "I love you too, my son."

After several scuffles broke out outside the courthouse earlier this week, security guards made everyone walk through a metal detector before entering the courtroom.

Cabassa will sentenced May 27.

He faces life in prison, but under new sentencing guidelines for juveniles, he could potentially be eligible for parole in 35 years.