A 13-year-old found guilty of fatally shooting a fast-food worker this spring in Keene will spend the next 12 years behind bars.
Several private hearings were held in Johnson County to discuss the juvenile murder case, with the young defendant facing a possible sentence ranging from probation to up to 40 years in prison. Ultimately, the judge handed him 12 years in prison, which he will begin serving in juvenile detention and later in an adult prison.
The unnamed juvenile was 12 years old when he fired an AR-15 rifle multiple times at Matthew Davis, 32, in the parking lot of a Sonic Drive-In in Keene on May 13, as reported previously by The Dallas Express. Davis had reportedly gotten into a fight with the boy’s uncle, 20-year-old Angel Gomez, over the latter allegedly urinating on the premises.
The boy’s 18-year-old aunt, Ashley Marmolejo Gomez, apparently handed him the weapon and urged him to exit the vehicle and confront Davis.
“At that point, I reached under my seat and got my [gun] and handed it directly to [him] and said ‘Go,’” Marmolejo Gomez told police, according to The Dallas Morning News. “I meant for him to go out and stop the fight by scaring the guy. I did not do it myself because I thought I was too intoxicated to walk. I did not want [him] to actually shoot the employee.”
Both Angel and Marmolejo Gomez face charges in connection with the shooting. The former is accused of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, while the latter was arrested this month on one count of manslaughter.
Seth Fuller, the attorney representing the teen defendant, referred to the judge’s 12-year sentence as “unnecessarily harsh,” according to the DMN.
“While I certainly understand the reasoning behind it, when I look at the wealth of scientific evidence of even just Texas juvenile incarceration, I do not think it makes society safer, but more dangerous,” Fuller wrote in an email to the Associated Press.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, the Dallas County Juvenile Detention Center has been under scrutiny since summer after allegations emerged that 11 children had been mistreated amid a larger ongoing investigation into the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.
A total of 219 murders and non-negligent homicides have been logged in Dallas in 2023 as of November 15, according to data from the City’s crime analytics overview dashboard. This represents a 13.5% increase year-over-year as the Dallas Police Department labors against an officer shortage.
DPD currently runs with fewer than 3,200 officers despite a City analysis previously estimating that a city the size of Dallas needs about 4,000 officers in total to properly maintain public safety.
The strain on DPD resources can be felt most heavily in Downtown Dallas, which sees significantly higher crime rates than Fort Worth’s downtown area. The latter maintains public safety in the city center via a dedicated police unit working in concert with private security guards.