- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
For the June shooting of a man who allegedly choked his estranged wife, a Hughesville man received a 30-year sentence with all but 12 of those suspended last week.
When appearing before Circuit Judge Amy J. Bragunier in December, 28-year-old Shane Ryan Barnett pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree murder and felony use of a firearm in the commission of a violent crime in an amended plea agreement. For the weapon charge, five years of Barnett’s sentence will be served without the possibility of parole.
The shooting stemmed from a phone call Barnett received in June from his estranged spouse, during the course of which she said her boyfriend, with whom she lived at the time, had choked her during an argument that day. When she called Barnett she said the cops were on their way to her residence, according to the woman’s statement in court Wednesday morning. Despite that, he came over armed with a pistol and fired two shots at the man, one of which struck him in the torso.
Officers arrived at Barnett’s home shortly after the shooting after talking to witnesses, Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney John A. Stackhouse said. They saw him attempting to flee the scene and gave chase. He was subdued with an electric stun gun and admitted what he had done thereafter.
“There’s a lot of things [Barnett] could have done,” Stackhouse said of the circumstances that led to the shooting. “[Barnett] is lucky he didn’t die. There’s mistakes, and then there’s mistakes. When you take a gun and shoot someone in the back, that’s not acceptable.”
By all accounts, Barnett, who has been incarcerated since June, immediately was remorseful after the crime. Attorney John Ray, Barnett’s defense lawyer, said letters written to the court in support of Barnett following the incident all describe him as a good man and a wonderful father to the 4-year-old son the couple had together. Before going to court Wednesday, Barnett also brought with him pictures of his son to show the court.
“[Barnett] is not saying he did the right thing,” Ray said. “He has to pay the price the rest of his life. He admitted his guilt.”
Ray noted the “mitigating circumstances” surrounding Barnett’s crime several times.
“He’s someone who from the time I met him was always very personable. He could be a success,” Ray said. “He’s not a bad man. He’s done a bad action, no doubt, but we believe there is every justification for the court to go to the bottom of the sentencing guidelines.”
In a tearful apology, Barnett acknowledged his actions.
“There’s any number of things I could have done, but I was in shock. He threatened to kill her,” Barnett said. “I was enraged. I wish I could say I’ve never seen a pistol in my life. There’s nothing I can say to change what I did. I’m totally responsible.”
While Bragunier acknowledged the severity of the circumstances, she maintained they do not justify a citizen going rogue.
“The emotions you felt were very real,” Bragunier said. “I understand you were very cooperative, and you’re remorseful. But our society cannot tolerate vigilantism, and that’s the problem. Had that shot gone inches away, you’d be looking at life without parole.”