Demetrius Monta Jackson wondered whether the stranger he argued with and fatally shot in a West End Tacoma parking lot had a wife and kids.
“I really couldn’t live with that,” he wrote last month in a letter to Pierce County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Arend.
It turned out 32-year-old Manuel Olmos Jr. did have a family, including a spouse and kids ages 3, 5 and 19.
At Jackson’s sentencing Thursday, he heard what Olmos meant to them.
“To see his kids who will grow up without a father, and his wife without her companion, it’s hard,” Olmos’ older brother, Ricardo Solis Jr. said in court. “... Our family is forever broken.”
He and other loved ones traveled from Utah to ask Arend for the maximum sentence possible for 20-year-old Jackson, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
But instead of the maximum, the judge handed down a mid-range term of 12 years, three months for the shooting.
Arend said some of Jackson’s actions that night “defy understanding and explanation.” But she pointed out that he has no criminal history and is young.
“This should be a defining moment in Mr. Jackson’s life, but it doesn’t need to define who he is,” she said.
She said this point in Jackson’s life should make him realize how his decisions affect others.
Olmos had been visiting friends on vacation when he died Feb. 9, loved ones said.
He and Jackson had been at a fast-food restaurant in the 2600 block of North Pearl Street, each with a friend, when Olmos’ group asked Jackson’s for a ride in exchange for $40, according to charging papers.
They argued, and a witness said someone in Jackson’s group asked: “You want to get shot?” A manager intervened and asked them to leave, and the shooting happened minutes later in a nearby parking lot.
Deputy Prosecutor Kawyne Lund described it as “two groups of two men that had a confrontation that was completely avoidable.”
She told the court youth and bravado were factors in the case, which “just epitomizes foolish decisions made in haste.”
When Jackson found himself in a situation he didn’t like, Lund said, he fired.
Defense attorney Edward DeCosta agreed what happened was foolish. He told Arend that Jackson had been college-bound, and was an active and longtime member of his church congregation. Letters from Jackson’s loved ones and members of the church affirmed that.
DeCosta said it appears Jackson stupidly decided to follow Olmos after the argument, to brandish a gun and intimidate Olmos and his friend, who had been drinking.
The attorney said the men responded by rushing at Jackson, who fired and shot Olmos in the neck, killing him.
“I don’t understand, and I want answers,” his wife, Megan Olmos, told the judge.
She and other loved ones said they’re missing out on bike rides with Olmos, summer barbecues, his advice and holiday gatherings, among other things.
“He just robbed us,” younger brother Javier Olmos said.
When it was Jackson’s turn to speak, he apologized and said he hadn’t meant to hurt anyone.
“Hearing them speak today, I’m just mad at myself,” he told Arend. “I let them down.”