DALLAS (AP) — A 13-year-old Texas boy convicted of murder in the fatal shooting of a Sonic Drive-In employee has been sentenced to 12 years incarceration, authorities said.
A judge issued the sentence Tuesday following days of evidentiary hearings over what punishment the boy should face in the rare murder case against a child, according to Amy Pardo of the Johnson County Attorney’s office. He will start the sentence in the custody of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department and he may later be transferred to the state’s adult prison system.
The boy, whom authorities have not identified by name, faced sentences ranging from probation to 40 years behind bars. In October, a jury found him to have engaged in delinquent conduct, the juvenile equivalent of a guilty verdict, in the murder case over the May shooting of a Sonic employee who had a fight with his uncle.
The child’s lawyer, Seth Fuller, said the yearslong prison sentence “matches the ‘eye for an eye’ sentiment I have come to expect from rural Texas counties.”
“While I certainly understand the reasoning behind it, when I look at the wealth of scientific evidence of even just Texas juvenile incarceration, I do not think it makes society safer, but more dangerous,” Fuller said in an email.
Police have said the boy, then 12, shot Matthew Davis several times with an AR-style rifle in the parking lot of the restaurant in Keene, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southwest of Dallas. He got the gun out of his uncle’s vehicle and opened fire after Davis confronted the uncle about his “disorderly conduct” outside the Sonic and the two men began to fight, police said.
The boy’s uncle, Angel Gomez, was also arrested after the shooting and later indicted on a charge of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. The case is pending.
For years, Texas’ youth prison system has been plagued by a series of scandals over child abuse that have been driven by cycles of stark understaffing.
In 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice opened a statewide civil rights investigation into the conditions in five of the systems’ facilities and whether they provide adequate mental health care and protection from violence for the incarcerated young people. The probe remains ongoing.