Man convicted in shots fired near Walmart in 2015
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) — A man has been convicted of almost all of the charges he faced in shots fired with a semi-automatic rifle outside a northeastern Pennsylvania shopping center two years ago.
Jurors deliberated for about two hours Friday before convicting Scott Sargent, 33, of counts including attempted murder of a police officer, aggravated assault and reckless endangering. He was acquitted of only two of two dozen counts.
Luzerne County prosecutors said police exchanged fire with Sargent in the crowded Wilkes-Barre township parking lot near Walmart in October 2015, wounding him.
Sargent testified that he didn’t see any officers and was firing warning shots, believing he was being followed. Defense attorney Melissa Sulima argued in her closing argument that there was no evidence that her client was trying to kill officers.
She suggested that he client was trying to protect his girlfriend and, while acknowledging that his actions were reckless and irrational, said he wasn’t actually trying to harm anyone. Sulima also pointed out that he didn’t shoot anyone, even Wilkes-Barre officer Alan Gribble, with whom he came face to face with before that officer shot him with a shotgun.
“If that doesn’t say he didn’t have that intent, I’m not sure what does,” she said.
Assistant District Attorney Jarrett Ferentino, however, cited shots flying past the officer’s head and other shots that hit police vehicles being used to shield other officers as proof that Sargent was trying to kill them.
“He didn’t shoot Officer Gribble because Officer Gribble was quicker on the draw. That’s it,” Ferentino said. “You don’t get points for missing, and you don’t get points for being slow on the draw.”
Defense attorney Joseph Yeager attributed the verdict in part to the defense’s inability to bring up Sargent’s mental health or drug issues.
Ferentino said prosecutors may still pursue an unlawful firearm possession charge that was severed from the case after the defense argued that it could prejudice jurors.
“We’re going to do whatever we have to do to make sure Scott Sargent never sees the outside of a jail cell,” Ferentino said.