LaBelle man gets life sentence in 2020 slaying of off-duty FWC officer, Immokalee native
The accused shooter in the slaying of Southwest Florida's "Batman" will spend his life behind bars.
Eliceo Hernandez, 23, of LaBelle, was sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder with a firearm and attempted second-degree murder in the 2020 slaying of Julian Keen, 30.
Keen's eldest sister, Kennetha Rice, 36, of Cartersville, Georgia, was driving back to Georgia on Friday morning. She said the family took up three rows in the courtroom as other relatives waited outside during the sentencing.
His sister reacts: Sister of slain FWC officer with ties to Immokalee speaks after shooter found guilty
Set for trial: Wisner Desmaret challenges court as trial looms in fatal Fort Myers police officer's shooting
She read a statement on behalf of the family, she said.
Following the guilty verdict, Rice said Keen, an officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was a loving, helpful person who always made sure those around him were OK, and a foundation in his honor continues that work.
Keen, who'd served for six years with FWC, was killed on June 14, 2020. A jury convicted Hernandez March 9 after a three-day trial in Hendry County.
Keen slain as he attempted to stop a reckless driver
Investigators determined through interviews that Keen and a friend had witnessed a reckless driver, Hernandez. Keen chased Hernandez to a convenience store where the two came face to face. Hernandez grabbed his gun and shot. One bullet struck and killed Keen.
Rice said at the time of Keen's murder, she lived in Zephyrhills, Florida.
They grew up together in LaBelle and Immokalee; Keen was dedicated to bettering his community by mentoring the youth.
Rice launched youth mentorship program through a nonprofit, Julian Lee Keen Foundation, partnering with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and Collier County Public Schools. The program launched in August 2021 with students at Immokalee Middle School.
"This case involved off-duty FWC Officer Julian Keen Jr. doing what he did best, working to keep our community safe and uphold the law. Even while at home, he could not turn away when he saw a crime happen," State Attorney Amira Fox wrote in a statement. "This murder was a heinous and cowardly act by the defendant. I hope the sentence of life in prison brings some sense of closure to the family, friends, and fellow law enforcement family of Officer Keen."
Tomas Rodriguez is a Breaking/Live News Reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. You can reach Tomas at TRodriguez@gannett.com or 772-333-5501. Connect with him on Twitter @TomasFRoBeltran, Instagram @tomasfrobeltran and Facebook @tomasrodrigueznews.
This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: LaBelle man to serve life in prison for killing FWC officer Keen