MARTINEZ -- A 22-year-old North Richmond man was sentenced Thursday to 77 years to life in prison for killing a young Muslim whom he mistook for a rival in a Richmond gang war.

"Asama is a good person and will be missed. He didn't have a chance to make his dreams come true," wrote Fayza Ayyad, the mother of slain El Cerrito 20-year-old Asama Ayyad, in a letter she was too upset to read at the sentencing of Nickie Donald.

Donald was 19 when he fired at Ayyad's white Lexus sedan on June 25, 2010, mistaking Ayyad and his 15-year-old cousin for two Central Richmond gang members, brothers Aaron and Markeith Miles. The brothers were sentenced this year to prison terms for murder and attempted murder, respectively.

Asama Ayyad was shot and killed on the road while on an errand for his mosque in Richmond in 2010. (Courtesy of Ayyad Family)
Asama Ayyad was shot and killed on the road while on an errand for his mosque in Richmond in 2010. (Courtesy of Ayyad Family)

Ayyad and his cousin had been volunteering that night at the Masjid Al-Noor mosque and were running an errand when they were fired upon at 22nd Street and Bissell Avenue in Richmond. After being shot in the side, Ayyad crashed his car into a pole within a block of the mosque where relatives and other worshipers were gathered for an event.

Ayyad's family owns the Zaki Kabob House restaurant in Albany, which closed temporarily while the family was in mourning.

A Contra Costa jury in February convicted Donald of first-degree murder, attempted murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and shooting from a moving vehicle. Jurors, however, rejected a charge enhancement alleging the shooting was committed for the benefit of a gang. Judge Theresa Canepa said Thursday that the evidence showed the shooting was the result of a gang war between Donald's gang, the Project Trojans, and the Deep C gang, to which the Miles brothers belonged.


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Defense attorney Brooks Osborne had asked for a short sentence for Donald, whom he said is capable of rehabilitation. He described Donald as a sensitive, remorseful young man and not the coldhearted murderer the prosecutor portrayed him to be. In a letter read by Osborne, Donald apologized for hurting Ayyad's family "mentally, physically and emotionally."

"I'm sorry about what took place and if I could I would trade places with the victim, because me being dead is better than me having to live knowing I took another man's life, no matter what the circumstances were," Donald wrote.

Ten-year-old Amir Ayyad handed prosecutor Satish Jallepalli two Matchbox toy cars that reminded him of his brother before telling Donald he is disappointed in him.

"You hurt my brother for no purpose. I hope you get what you deserve," the child said. "Think about it and learn from your mistakes. You hurt my feelings, and now I can't play with my brother anymore."

Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.