The robbery wasn’t Denzel Thompson’s idea. Neither was bringing the gun.
But on Aug. 29, the 20-year-old Kent man found himself on a Tacoma street, in the middle of a robbery, holding a gun.
What happened next ended his cousin’s life and landed Thompson in a heap of trouble.
Thompson used the pistol to bludgeon the intended robbery victim, a black-market marijuana dealer, in the head. The gun went off on impact, sending a bullet into Douglas Medlock II’s leg, where it hit an artery.
The 20-year-old Medlock, who Thompson described as his best friend, bled to death while Thompson and a teenage friend tried to find him help.
On Wednesday, Thompson pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in Medlock’s death and was sentenced to seven years, 11 months in prison.
“If I could go back to change everything, I would,” Thompson told Pierce County Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson. “It’s going to be hard to go on without him.”
Deputy prosecutor Lisa Wagner and defense attorney Edward DeCosta argued for a low-end sentence for Thompson.
Wagner pointed out that Thompson’s only other brush with the law was a ticket for fishing without a license.
“He’s not a bad person,” Wagner told Cuthbertson. “The evidence shows he didn’t want to participate in (the robbery), but unfortunately he did.”
DeCosta said his client was in a car with some other people from King County, including Medlock, who wanted to rob the dealer. Thompson argued against the idea but lost, DeCosta said.
Then he wound up with his cousin’s gun in his hand near South 23rd Street and South Yakima Avenue, the defense attorney said. Thompson didn’t intend to shoot anyone and was shocked when the gun discharged and mortified that he’d shot his cousin, DeCosta added.
Unfamiliar with Tacoma, Thompson and the teenage boy drove the bleeding Medlock toward downtown even though they were only a few blocks away from St. Joseph Medical Center.
“These guys panicked, as you can imagine,” DeCosta said.
Medlock bled out before help arrived.
Cuthbertson, who accepted the low-end sentence, called the case a sad one.
“I hate to see a 20-year-old go to prison for almost eight years, but that seems a fair and just resolution of this case,” the judge told Thompson.
He then encouraged the defendant to avail himself of prison programs to try to better himself and do something positive with his life as a way to honor his cousin.