DULUTH — LaVenda Vann, speaking for the victim's family, leaned across the table in the courtroom and directly addressed Patrick Battees, dressed in a dark blue jumpsuit and handcuffs.
"We know you were Juamada's best friend and we know it wasn't intentional," she said. "My sister and his siblings want you to know we're not mad at you. We are hurt."
Judge David M. Johnson sentenced Battees to 12½ years in prison, with credit for nearly two years served, on Wednesday at the St. Louis County Courthouse. Battees, 19, was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder and reckless discharge of a firearm within a municipality in January — just more than a year and a half after he fired his .45 into a tense crowd, accidentally shooting his friend Juamada Anderson Jr., in the head and killing him.
Vann encouraged Battees to get the help he needs and an education. Battees, sniffling, told her he was sorry. His attorneys offered him support — backrubs and tissues.
"If I could take it back, I would," Battees said. "I'm really sorry for what I did."
On May 22, 2021, Battees and Anderson were hanging out on a porch in Duluth's Central Hillside neighborhood. Surveillance video shows a small crowd gathering, Battees in the middle of a tense crowd, and then guns drawn. He broke free, turned back and fired his .45 into the mass of people. Anderson, 22, dropped to the ground and later died.
Battees was originally charged in juvenile court, but was certified as an adult in October. He claimed self-defense in the shooting, but the jury that deliberated for 11 hours didn't see it that way.
The victim's father, Juamada Anderson Sr., appeared via Zoom and asked for the maximum sentence for Battees. His family members are struggling with PTSD, Anderson said in a prepared statement read aloud in the courtroom. He is in a deep depression, he said. He can't work, nothing is fun anymore and he can still vividly see his oldest son attached to life support.
Battees' attorney JD Schmid asked Johnson to break from sentencing guidelines — as this isn't a typical felony murder. Battees never denied what he did, Schmid said, but he didn't start the altercation that led to the shooting. Schmid said he tried putting himself in Battees' shoes — and he would've acted similarly.
"I know that I would've shot," Schmid said. "I know that."
Prosecutor Nichole Carter asked for a sentence on the longer side of the sentencing guidelines because of the severity of firing a gun on a crowded street. Johnson stayed within the guidelines, choosing middle ground.
"I don't believe you deserved to be in the position you were in," Johnson said to Battees. "The fact is, Mr. Battees, you took this to a new level."
Several other people were charged in the incident. Tyrone Childs Sr. was convicted in December 2021 of having a firearm as a felon and of a drive-by shooting. According to court documents, he fired his 9mm from inside his van after Battees' initial gunshot. Laurel Laddwas convicted of aiding an offender and served probation. Markus Morris is facing charges similar to Childs.