Gang member is convicted in shooting death of Pomona youth pastor

A 29-year-old man whom prosecutors said has gang ties was convicted Tuesday of shooting a youth pastor to death in Pomona and was sentenced to 34 years and four months in prison, prosecutors said.

Arvin Benson pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter and two counts of attempted murder while using a gun in the Nov. 11, 2013, killing of 33-year-old Daniel Diaz.

Pomona police said that on that night, Benson killed Diaz because Diaz was Latino. Benson is black.

About 12:45 a.m., an armed man walked up to a car in which Diaz and three other people were sitting, according to the Pomona Police Department. The people in the car had just dropped off a friend when the man began shooting.

Diaz was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to coroner’s records.

Diaz was a beloved youth minister at New Beginning Community Ministries in Baldwin Park. His parents founded the church, and his sister worked there.

The killing came one day after hundreds of people gathered in the football stands of Ganesha High School in Pomona to pray for an end to violence in the city.

Friends and family members said Diaz also was working for change and mentoring at-risk youth.

“He thought it was very important to reach out to them. Those are the ones you have to reach first, to get them at a young age,” said Lynna Moreno, a member of the New Beginning congregation. “He knew how to talk to them. Youths were drawn to him. Even though they were a little rebellious, sooner or later, it sunk in to them.”

Boys he mentored were distraught over the killing and called Diaz a big brother figure.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.

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