GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) - A teenage gang member who shot four people at a high school graduation party in Kentwood after getting punched in the face was sentenced today to a minimum of 27 years in prison.
Judge Paul Sullivan scolded 18-year-old Billie DeShawn McKinney for turning what should have been a celebratory event into a tragedy.
"The number of serious shootings in this community - I have to take note of that,'' Sullivan told a packed courtroom. "There's been a lot of gang violence in this community and people are getting fed up with it. I know I'm getting fed up with it.''
McKinney was sentenced to between 27 and 50 years in prison. He did not address the court prior to sentencing.
The four shooting victims survived; one had her jaw shattered by a bullet and a young man was hospitalized four days for gunshots to the abdomen and shoulder.
Defense attorney William Van Eck asked the judge to sentence on the low end of guidelines, which would have meant a minimum term of 14 years, noting the shooting was preceded by a fight in which McKinney was punched in the face.
"There's a lot of growing up that can take place between 18 and 32,'' Van Eck said, referring to the age McKinney will be if released after 14 years.
Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said McKinney was afforded ample opportunities to turn his life around, including treatment and counseling in Iowa and probation in Kent County. "He's been given every chance,'' Becker told the judge.
Sullivan agreed, noting ample evidence to suggest premeditation. McKinney used a sock to load ammunition into the handgun to keep his fingerprints off the bullet casings and the weapon, the judge said.
"This was a high school graduation party getting totally out of control,'' he said. "No matter how you look at it, a number of people were placed in danger.''
People who had "no business'' attending the pool deck party showed up and a fight ensued between rival gang members, Sullivan said. "Maybe that's why you were hit in the mouth and you're on the pool deck firing. You put many people at serious risk and you really had no business being there.
"What should have been a celebratory, fun evening turned out to be a tragedy they will not soon forget,'' Sullivan continued. "And frankly, Mr. McKinney, you won't soon forget either.''
Several days after the shootings, McKinney was arrested for lying to prosecutors in an unrelated case. He was charged with the Kentwood shootings three months later.