LIMA — The volume of Judge Jeffrey Reed’s voice rose Tuesday in direct proportion to his escalating frustration with the seemingly endless number of crimes involving guns in Lima and Allen County.
“It doesn’t end until everybody’s dead, does it?” Reed asked no one in particular during a sentencing hearing in the case of 22-year-old Lima resident Trey Ackles, charged in a drive-by shooting earlier this year that followed the murder trial of Cory Jackson.
After accepting a deal from prosecutors during Tuesday’s hearing, Ackles was immediately sentenced by a clearly-exasperated Reed to seven years in prison.
Jackson was convicted by an Allen County jury in February of murder in the 2016 shooting death of Amari Gooding outside the Main Street Irish Pub in downtown Lima. Ackles testified against Jackson at trial and has been receiving death threats since that time, his attorney, John Fisher, told the court during Tuesday’s hearing.
“His best friend was gunned down right by his side, in a parking lot just across the street from this courthouse,” Fisher told the court. “He watched his friend die in his arms. He (Ackles) thought he was next; he was told he was next. He was receiving death threats on the street and houses of his family were getting shot up.”
On March 18, police say, Ackles took matters into his own hands in what his attorney called an ill-advised act of “vigilante justice.” Ackles was a passenger in a car driven by Darius Relford of Lima and carried out the drive-by shooting when he fired gunshots from the vehicle into the home of Berhonda Fuller at 1140 S. Union St., Lima. Fuller’s nephew, Marvin Bridges, had testified on Jackson’s behalf at trial.
Several shots fired by Ackles struck the Fuller home and two bullets entered the residence through a window. Police heard the shots and initiated a traffic stop. Relford, the driver of the suspected vehicle, admitted to police that a 9 mm weapon found in the car was his. Ackles, a front seat passenger, was free on bond at that time on a charge of trafficking in marijuana and violating his probation, charges for which he was sentenced on March 28 to four years in prison.
Ackles was indicted in April on charges of discharging a firearm on or near prohibited premises and tampering with evidence, with specifications that a firearm was used in the commission of the crime. The indictment also charged him with improperly discharging a firearm at or into a habitation, felonious assault with a firearm specification, and the improper handling of a firearm inside a motor vehicle.
The deal offered by prosecutors called for Ackles to plead guilty to a single count of felonious assault with a three-year firearm specification, a second-degree felony.
Ackles apologized to the victims in the case and said his downward spiral began with watching his friend be shot and killed.
“Why didn’t that wake up up?” Reed asked the defendant, his voice rising in volume. “Why was that not enough to make you change? To ask, ‘What am I doing?’ To say ‘I’ve gotta change?’
“I don’t understand it,” the judge continued. “It doesn’t matter who started it; it’s who stops it.”
In the final analysis, however, the judge paid Ackles a compliment before passing sentence.
“You did the right thing by cooperating with the authorities and testifying at trial,” said Reed. “I applaud you for that. I just wish that after Amari’s death you would have hung up the holster.”
Reed ordered the new sentence against Ackles to be served concurrently with the the man’s existing four-year prison sentence. That decision was based, in part, on Ackles courage in testifying in the Jackson trial.
Reach J Swygart at 567-242-0464.