FRESNO, Calif. - A suspect has pleaded guilty to manslaughter for causing the death of nine-year-old Janessa Ramirez in January of 2015.
It has taken three years but Brian Cooks took the plea deal on Thursday. Cooks was not aiming at Janessa. He was aiming at someone else from about three football fields away.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer calls it a tragedy that pulled at the heart strings of the community.
"Here's a young nine-year-old girl who had the rest of her life in front of her," said Dyer.
But the life of Janessa Ramirez ended in the arms of her mother, killed by a stray bullet in January 2015. Prosecutors say Brian Cooks opened fire in a gun fight with a rival gang member, hitting Ramirez from 300 yards away. Cooks accepted a plea deal on Thursday and will be sentenced to 21 years in prison.
"But in light of all evidence, we felt that this was fair. This was a disposition that we can live with," said Cooks' defense attorney, Curtis Sok.
Dyer has been in constant contact with Janessa's mother since her death and says the sentence won't bring Janessa back.
"It will never take away the emotional pain and trauma that Stacy has gone through as a mother," said Dyer.
As for Isaac Stafford and Donte Hawkins -- the two men in the car involved in the deadly shooting, Dyer says the investigation is still open.
"Brian Cooks is only one part of that equation. I'm not certain as to where they're at regarding the second piece. But I do know that the individual in that car was Isaac Stafford."
Dyer's goal is to reduce shootings by 20 percent citywide. He says Janessa's death and her killer's sentence sends a message to gang members.
"You may intending to shoot a rival gang member but your bullet may miss and strike an innocent child and kill them and deprive some family of that loved one the rest of their life," said Dyer.