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US man who killed neighbor teen gets life term

July 22, 2013

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A 76-year-old U.S. man who fatally shot his black 13-year-old neighbor in the chest after accusing the boy of burglary was sentenced Monday to life in prison with no chance of parole.

John H. Spooner, who was convicted last week of first-degree intentional homicide, acknowledged shooting Darius Simmons last year while the teen’s mother watched.

The conviction carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

The case has drawn some parallels to that of the deadly shooting of black teen Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman after a Florida confrontation. Zimmerman, however, was acquitted amid protests across the country.

Some of Spooner’s shotguns were stolen in a break-in at his home in May 2012, and he told the jury he suspected Darius as the thief. Footage from Spooner’s own surveillance cameras two days later showed him confronting Darius on the sidewalk, pointing a gun at the boy’s chest and firing. Darius turned and fled, then collapsed and died in the street moments later as his mother cradled him.

Police searched the boy’s home later that day and didn’t find the weapons.

Darius’ mother, Patricia Larry, has a wrongful-death lawsuit pending against Spooner. After jurors rejected Spooner’s insanity plea on Friday, she told reporters “justice was served.”

Spooner never denied shooting the boy. He testified, against his attorney’s advice, that he killed Darius because he really wanted his guns back. He also acknowledged wanting to kill the teen’s brother when the older boy ran to Darius’ aid as he lay dying. But Spooner said he didn’t want to hit any of the others who had gathered around.

When prosecutor Mark Williams suggested Spooner killed Darius for revenge, Spooner replied, “I wouldn’t call it revenge. I would call it justice.”

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