Jakobe Ford will never live out his Olympic dreams or take his 4-year-old son to his first day of school.
Michael H. Le, 26, took those opportunities away from Ford when he shot and killed the 22-year-old last summer outside Lucky’s Bar in downtown Spokane.
Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tony Hazel sentenced Le Friday to a little more than 25 years in prison after about a dozen of Ford’s loved ones – some shedding tears – addressed the court. The courtroom was packed with about 40 attendees, most appearing to be Ford’s friends and family members. Several others watched the proceedings virtually.
“It’s a nightmare, and I’ll live it the rest of my life,” said Robi Rogers, Ford’s mother.
Le pleaded guilty last month to first-degree murder, second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and criminal mischief. The latter charge was for a February 2021 incident.
Court documents indicate Ford and Le knew each other. A woman told police she was dating Ford at the time of his death and previously dated Le and was the mother of Le’s child.
Latasha Lofton, Ford’s sister who witnessed the shooting, told police there were problems with Le and Ford in the past, including physical fights.
Le was arrested in February 2021 on suspicion of second-degree assault, which listed Ford and his girlfriend as the victims, documents said. A pretrial no-contact order was issued protecting Ford’s girlfriend. The order required Le to surrender any firearms.
On July 31, 2021, Lofton said in documents she saw Le engage with Ford at Lucky’s, and it appeared as if Le was taking photos of Ford. Le left the bar but continued to behave as if he was taking pictures or video of Ford using his cellphone.
Ford left the bar with a group of friends, and he and Le appeared as if they were going to fight, Lofton told police. She said Le then made a motion and turned away from Ford slightly, then turned back. Lofton said she observed four gunshots, adding that she did not see the gun but did see the sparks from the gunshots. Le then ran.
Another witness told police she saw a big flash and blood coming from Ford. She performed CPR on Ford until Spokane police officers arrived.
Other witnesses, including an officer, reported about four gunshots. The officer said Le fled in the vehicle but was stopped by other patrol units in the area of Howard Street and Riverside Avenue.
Video surveillance showed Le entering and exiting Lucky’s, 408 W. Sprague Ave., three times in about 40 minutes, starting around 11 p.m. July 31. Ford is seen on video leaving the bar shortly after Le exited a fourth time.
An argument ensued and Le appeared to grab at the fanny pack he was wearing as the two argued, video showed. Le removed an object from the pack on his chest and held it in his right hand. He then stepped in front of Ford, turned and fled. People scattered as the shooting happened.
Meanwhile, messages between Ford and Le talked about the two fighting each other.
Some messages from Le to Ford included, “… the morgue where you going,” and “It’s 2021 it’s gun play.” Another message thread showed Le telling Ford, “Straight up know I’m shooting” followed by “That’s that.” Ford replied, “Ok” and then Le wrote, “You ain’t even gon get the chance to do nothing.”
According to documents, Le messaged Ford’s girlfriend minutes before the shooting telling her that Ford was at Lucky’s and asking her to tell Ford to come outside. Le wrote, “If I don’t see my son I’m going to jail” and “Either way somethings happening tonight.” Ford’s girlfriend told Le not to do anything.
Le’s attorney, Kyle Zeller, said Ford attacked and beat up Le the day before the shooting. He also said the shooting was not planned.
Rogers, using tissues to wipe away tears and with two of her daughters by her side, said Friday that she told Ford the day he was killed to be careful that night as he and others planned to go out and celebrate a loved one’s pregnancy.
“Something told me to say that,” Rogers said.
She said she woke up to a phone call that night that her son had been shot and drove to the crime scene.
“I had to lay in the street begging to go to my son,” she said. “My son, my only son.”
She said the past 14 months have been the worst of her life and her children’s. She said she wakes up every day realizing she’ll never hear her son’s laugh again.
Rogers said after Le was sentenced that she felt relief. While she and loved ones asked Hazel to impose the maximum sentence allowed, Rogers said the sentence ultimately does not matter because her son is gone.
She said she will celebrate her son’s life every year to keep his memory alive.
“I just hope people don’t forget him,” Rogers said.
“I want them to remember that he wanted to be the best at everything he did,” she added. “Being a father was the most important thing to him.”
Ford graduated from Shadle Park High School and was a star on the track team.
“With training and with practice, he definitely would have been an Olympian, probably (winning) gold,” Rogers said.
Lofton told the court she took five months off work because she was so depressed and lost after the shooting. She said she cries when she drives by Lucky’s as the shooting plays on repeat in her mind.
Many people, including Lofton, said that not only was Ford’s life taken unnecessarily, his 4-year-old son’s life was also altered.
“He was robbed of so many memories and life lessons from his father,” Lofton said.
Photos of Ford and his son, Jahari, were shown throughout the victim impact statements Friday.
Tommie Mosteller, Jahari’s mother, said her son’s life changed forever when Ford was killed. Mosteller, who held Jahari while she addressed the court, said Ford will never get to attend Jahari’s sports games, graduations and other life events. Ford also can’t offer his son advice or a shoulder to cry on, Mosteller said.
“We will have to cope with this for the rest of our lives,” she said.
Sequoia Chatterley, another one of Ford’s sisters, said Le “took the coward way” instead of having a conversation with Ford.
“He decided to go back and grab his gun, he decided to pull the trigger,” Chatterley said. “He knew what he was doing and it’s only fair that you keep that kind of monster behind bars for the rest of his life.”
Chris Ford, Ford’s father, said virtually that Le made a promise that he was going to gun Jakobe Ford down, “and he made good of it.”
“We don’t get to hug Kobe ever again,” he said.
Le, who wore yellow Spokane County Jail clothing and looked down during most of Friday’s victim statements, took a prepared statement from his shirt pocket, stood up and apologized to Jakobe Ford’s family. He said he wished he could turn back time and not pull the trigger, while asking for forgiveness.
Donna Dansby, who said she’s been Le’s mother since he was 13, apologized for what her son did. She said she hoped the judge’s sentencing allowed the Ford family to start the healing process.
Spokane County deputy prosecutor Sharon Hedlund said Jakobe Ford spent the day he died with friends and family.
“I hope that brings the family some peace,” she said.
Hazel sentenced Le to the midpoint, or 304 months, of the standard range of 261 months to 347 months in prison. Le will serve three years of community custody when he is released from prison. The mandatory minimum sentence was 20 years in prison.
Hazel called Jakobe Ford’s death a “profound loss,” and said that he was in “the prime of his life.”
He told Le that he hopes he makes something of his life, and that he is capable of doing so.
“This sentence does not bring Jakobe Ford back,” Hazel said, “nor does it heal all the people that loved him.”
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