Jurors convicted a former Marine of murder Tuesday for firing 48 shots at a Tacoma gas station, but his post-traumatic stress disorder kept them from agreeing on whether the shooting was premeditated.
Prosecutors had argued 31-year-old Robert Grott was guilty of first-degree murder — saying the shooting of 23-year-old Julian “Jay” Thomas was thought out for more than a moment, at least, beforehand.
But jurors couldn’t come to a unanimous decision on that, and instead convicted Grott of the lesser crime of second-degree murder, as well as seven counts of first-degree assault for bystanders who could have been hurt.
“The main thing that held us to a murder two decision was considering his PTSD,” juror Dan Sova told The News Tribune.
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Several other jurors who declined to give their names said the same thing — that they felt Grott’s PTSD affected his ability to premeditate the February 2016 shooting. They said that was a focus of their deliberations, which started Friday and lasted until early Tuesday.
Defense attorney Michael Frans asked jurors to consider PTSD during the three-week trial. He told them Grott served in Afghanistan before he was honorably discharged, and that he lost a friend overseas.
The main thing that held us to a murder two decision was considering his PTSD.
Juror Dan Sova
The day of the gas station shooting, Grott believed Thomas was reaching for a gun, Frans argued, and fired in self defense consistent with his military training.
For several months leading up to the murder, he said, Grott had been living in a state of paranoia and fear, worried that Thomas was out to get him.
Jurors heard testimony about how Grott believed Thomas, a family acquaintance, had taken his gun. And they heard how the dispute escalated when someone fired a bullet into Grott’s home, narrowly missing Grott, and Thomas took credit for it.
Deputy prosecutors Jesse Williams and John Sheeran argued Grott stewed for several months after that, then fired 48 premeditated shots when the men had a chance encounter at the Arco station at 3601 Center St.
Grott fired repeatedly, going through multiple clips as he advanced toward the car where Thomas was sitting. The jury heard testimony that he said as he fired: “You don’t get to shoot at my house and get away with it.”
His sentencing is set for May 26.
“I’m not happy with having to render this,” Sova said of the verdict. “I don’t think any of us are.”
He identified himself as a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and added about PTSD: “People who need to get help, they need to get help. And there shouldn’t be a stigma to it.”