Crime - Sacto 911

Murder verdict for teen in shooting death of Grant High’s J.J. Clavo

Nicole Clavo offers encouragement to the Grant High football team during a remembrance for her son, Joulon Clavo, at Grant High School on Nov. 16, 2015, a week after he was shot and killed near the campus, hours before a playoff game.
Nicole Clavo offers encouragement to the Grant High football team during a remembrance for her son, Joulon Clavo, at Grant High School on Nov. 16, 2015, a week after he was shot and killed near the campus, hours before a playoff game. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Keymontae Lindsey was found guilty of murder in the killing of Jaulon “J.J.” Clavo on Monday in a Sacramento courtroom, nearly four years after the standout Grant Union High School student-athlete was gunned down in front of his teammates in November 2015.

Lindsey was found guilty on all counts: first-degree murder for Clavo’s shooting death; attempted murder in the wounding of teammate Malik Johnson; and a charge of shooting into an occupied vehicle, the car Clavo and teammates were driving when they were ambushed at an intersection near the Grant High campus.

But Lindsey, who was tried as a juvenile after a protracted legal fight, will be freed at 23.

“It probably would have been charged as a life sentence had he been charged as an adult,” Jaulon Clavo’s mother, Nicole Clavo, said following the Monday verdict.

For Nicole Clavo, the Monday verdict is a partial victory at best. Her son’s killer was found guilty, but Jaulon is still gone.

She fought to have Lindsey tried as an adult and continues to call for the overturning of Senate Bill 1391, which caps juvenile murder sentences at age 25. Because Lindsey committed the killing in the year he did, Lindsey will be held until he is 23 years old.

Sentencing is set for Aug. 19 in Sacramento Superior Court before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Sweet, who presided over the juvenile court trial.

“I’m just a little numb,” Clavo said. “I’m glad there’s some accountability, but at the end of the day, my son’s still gone and there’s a young man who has to face the consequences of the decision that changed all of our lives.”

Clavo died on a November afternoon in 2015 while stopped at a stop sign blocks away from the high school where he played football.

The 17-year-old defensive back had gone with his teammates to a nearby Popeye’s Chicken restaurant to fuel up for a playoff game later that night.

But while stopped at the intersection of Silver Eagle Road and Mabel Street, Lindsey walked up and opened fire, hitting Clavo in the neck. Teammate Malik Johnson was also shot in the arm.

Clavo later died at UC Davis Medical Center.

Prosecutors said at the time Clavo and Lindsey did not know each other, and Lindsey committed the shooting in service to the Strawberry Manor Bloods street gang, which operates in North Sacramento.

Lindsey was arrested a day later during an unrelated traffic stop where police found him in possession of a 9mm handgun. Police later linked the gun to Clavo’s death. Lindsey was 15 at the time.

“This was a senseless crime. These two guys should have been friends,” said Lindsey’s attorney Kevin Adamson following the verdict.

Adamson thinks that Lindsey can be rehabilitated.

“He was so young at the time,” Adamson said. “He’s done really well in the 3½ years he’s been incarcerated. He hasn’t gotten in a single fight. ... But he and Clavo should have been hanging out together, going to school and playing football.”

The question of whether Lindsay should be tried as an adult or juvenile in Clavo’s killing became a long, protracted legal fight.

In past years, Lindsey would have been tried as an adult. A guilty verdict would have meant a life sentence without parole.

But state law changed. Former Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1391, which prevents prosecutors from trying young people under the age of 16 as adults. Prosecutors challenged the new law in court and lost. So Lindsey was tried as a juvenile.

Days before trial, the California Supreme Court refused to hear the Sacramento County district attorney’s challenge of the local court decision to try Lindsey as a juvenile.

Lindsey attorney Adamson called the legal journey a “roller coaster.”

“This was a complex 3½ years of litigation. I’m sure it was incredibly taxing for Mr. Clavo’s mom and it’s got to be difficult for Lindsey’s mom,” Adamson said. “The emotional roller coaster had to be difficult, especially for Mr. Clavo’s family.”

Clavo had support Monday, however, as she has had since her son’s death, she said. Family, friends, peace officers, church members and community leaders make up the extended network that has helped her navigate the last three years.

But Clavo’s questions and her loss — still raw — remain.

“I don’t know what justice really means. Nothing will justify my son’s death,” Clavo said. “There’s no way I’ll ever be whole. There’s no way I’ll ever be what I was before Nov. 13, 2015.”

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