An Ohio grand jury found a 65-year-old Dayton man guilty of murder in the shooting deaths of two Black teenagers last week, Dayton Daily News reported.
After deliberating for three hours on Dec. 2, the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court jury convicted 65-year-old Victor Santana of four counts of murder, four counts of felonious assault and one count of attempt to commit murder in the August 2019 deaths of 17-year-olds Javier Harrison and Devin Henderson.
“I just feel relieved,” Jimmy Harrison, Javier’s father, told WFEK after the conviction. “It’s a couple of weights off me and probably for the family. But at the end of the day, we still aren’t going to have him here. My son is still going to be gone.”
The jury acquitted Santana of a felonious assault charge of Jayshin Gibson, the sole surviving witness of the shooting.
“It feels good to be able to look that family in the face and say in this community, the community did the right thing,” Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kim Melnick told WKEF after the conviction.
On the night of Aug. 28, 2019, Harrison, Henderson and Gibson, who was 19 at the time, snuck into a detached garage behind Santana’s home to smoke marijuana in a car they thought was abandoned.
“We just wanted to get high, go home,” Gibson, who was not injured in the shooting, testified in court. He said Santana opened the door to the vehicle in the dark and fired without warning. “He didn’t say nothing at all,” he testified.
Gibson hid under the car and escaped after Santana left the scene.
Defense attorney Lucas Wilder said Santana was watching television in his home at around 11 p.m. when he saw people enter through the gate of his backyard. Santana feared the people would come into his house, grabbed his gun and went outside, Wilder said.
When Santana saw the teens in the dark car, he thought they may have had weapons.
“In that moment, fear hits him and he decides to shoot,” Wilder said. Santana’s legal team unsuccessfully tried to use “Stand Your Ground” law that was enacted in the state after the shooting. A judge ruled it could not be applied retroactively.
Santana’s niece testified on her uncle’s behalf and said he is a peaceful man. “He would go to work, he would go home, and he would go to the library,” she said. “I mean he wasn’t in places you would think like big crowds. He would go to the park here and there. He sometimes would go to the homeless shelters and volunteer.”
Santana will face sentencing on Dec. 20 and faces 36 years to life in prison.
“I feel emotional now,” Linda Henderson, Devin’s mother, told WHIO after the conviction. “They can finally get some rest and I can get some sleep.”
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