Jeremy Schlenker was in an alcohol-induced delirium when he fatally shot a stranger outside a Tacoma casino last year.
He’d drank most of a half-gallon of rum before he pistol-whipped 26-year-old Brandon Williams and shot him in the head twice early March 21, 2015, in the parking lot of the Emerald Queen Casino.
Schlenker took responsibility for that Monday before U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle gave him a mid-range sentence of 26 years in prison.
“I’m a grown man,” said Schlenker, 28. “I make my own decisions, and I made a bad mistake.”
He pleaded guilty earlier this year to second-degree murder and use of a gun in a violent crime in connection with Williams’ death.
Federal prosecutors asked for a 33-year sentence, which was higher than Schlenker’s standard range, the high end of which was 27 years, six months.
“It was his choice to drink all of that alcohol,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Cohen said in court. “... It was also his choice to carry a loaded gun with him that night.”
Cohen said Schlenker previously assaulted his grandmother and girlfriend after bouts of drinking and, shortly before shooting Williams, pointed the gun at several other people.
Schlenker boxed in Williams’ car for no apparent reason outside the casino. Williams got out of the car and Schlenker attacked him.
“The defendant was looking to shoot someone that night,” Cohen said. “... His violence was clearly escalating over the course of the evening.”
Defense attorney Miriam Schwartz said Schlenker suffers from paranoia, at times hears voices and the night he killed Williams “he believed in his mind that he was about to get shot, and he instantaneously pulled the trigger.”
The victim’s mother, Jae Jae Williams, said her son had 10 nieces and nephews, and had wanted to have children of his own one day.
“Every single one of them he played with and loved,” she told the court.
She said he was shot trying to protect his friends from Schlenker.
“Brandon protected everyone he came into contact with,” she said. “In our eyes, Brandon was a hero.”
One of his brothers, Rubin Julian Hernandez Williams, told the court: “We’re just all going to have to learn from our mistakes. There’s enough hate in this world. It all just needs to stop.”
Another brother, Garrett Cody Williams, told Schlenker he hoped he’d find religion.
“I’ve been praying for you,” he said. “... I care about you, but you made a big mistake. I really hope you find the Lord, bro.”
Schlenker said he had been getting signs from God, who he said “doesn’t want my life to go to waste.”
He said he wished he could take back his actions, but that instead he had to pay for the crime.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” he said.
Schlenker said he’d gotten mixed up with the wrong people, and that he knew what Williams’ family was going through, because he’d lost friends to “meaningless, senseless violence.”
About Williams’ death, he said: “I wish it was me.”
Federal court had jurisdiction of the case, because the homicide happened on tribal land and Schlenker is a member of the Crow Indian Tribe of Montana.