On May 21, 2012, following an Oklahoma City Thunder playoff game against the Los Angeles Lakers, just a few blocks away from "Thunder Alley," a 16-year-old boy pulled a gun from the waistband of his pants and began firing into a crowd dispersing from the game to go home.
Teen Fires Weapon into Crowd
Witnesses said the teen fired after an altercation between three males and a female, but some of the eight people injured in the shooting were innocent bystanders. One of those bystanders was critically injured when Avery Eugene Myers recklessly fired into the crowd. Norman Richards II, a 22-year-old father, was shot in the back and died twice that night--once revived at the scene by witnesses, and a second time revived on the operating table during surgery. Despite the odds stacked against him, Richards returned home from the hospital and rehabilitation just over a month after he was injured.
The incident prompted the closure of "Thunder Alley," a basketball watch party outside of the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Witnesses say that Myers had been at Thunder Alley prior to the shooting, and that he had been involved in several altercations. The incident prompted concerns over crowd control and lack of adequate law enforcement to patrol the area, and Thunder Alley, an Oklahoma City tradition, was shut down.
Pleads Guilty to Assault and Battery
Now, some two years after the incident, Avery Myers, now 18, has pleaded guilty to eight counts of assault and battery with a deadly weapon. Initially charged with shooting with intent to kill, the young man, who was tried as an adult, faced life in prison. He accepted a plea agreement to the lesser charges of assault and battery with a deadly weapon in return for a sentence of 25 years in prison followed by 10 years of probation. He is also ordered to pay more than $29,000 in restitution to his victims.
Myers accepted the plea last Friday; his trial was scheduled to begin on Monday. Prosecutors said they had no indication that the young man was going to accept a plea offer, saying, "The case is over two years old, and there hasn't been any indication of accepting a plea agreement until the 11th hour." Prosecutors say that they and the victims believe the sentence to be just.
In addition to the reduced sentence over a possible life sentence, pleading guilty to the lesser charge has another benefit for Myers. Shooting with Intent to Kill is an "85 percent crime" in Oklahoma. This means that, if convicted, Myers would not have been eligible for parole until he served at least 85 percent of the sentence. The state designates a life sentence as 45 years for the purpose of parole. If he had been convicted, the young man would have remained in prison until he was at least 54 years old before having even the opportunity for parole.
There are a number of Oklahoma gun laws that prohibit recklessly discharging a firearm or using a gun or other deadly weapon to injure or attempt to injure or kill another person. When a hot-headed teenager fired into a crowd after a disagreement with his peers, he not only endangered the lives of everyone present, but he also ruined his chances of a normal young adulthood. At just 16 years of age, he was taken to jail. Even with credit for time served, the young man will spend the next phase of his life in prison.