GOSHEN — An Elkhart teen who was convicted of shooting a man in the leg outside River Run Apartments received a 37-year sentence Thursday.
Byron Harris Jr., 16, was sentenced to 32 years in prison followed by five years on probation in Elkhart County Circuit Court. He was convicted in June of attempted murder, a Level 1 felony, for firing multiple shots at a man on June 11, 2018, hitting his leg and shattering the bone.
His lawyer pointed to Harris’s young age and his desire to finish earning his high school diploma in asking that he be sent to a juvenile facility for 30 years, with 10 suspended. He said Harris has taken responsibility for his past and that even as a kid, he hopes to go somewhere he can get some rehabilitation.
“He’s gonna have to grow up darn quick to get through it and get out,” attorney Jeffrey Majarek said. “I’ve been in contact with his family, I know they have strong feelings for him. They want him to take care of things and get back to them.”
Judge Michael Christofeno noted that he received several letters in support of Harris.
Deputy Elkhart County Prosecutor Susan Snyder told the judge the fact that Harris was taking high school classes and starting to make plans for college while in the jail showed that he benefited more from the adult environment than the juvenile justice system. She said he had a pattern of escalating violence, starting with armed robbery at age 9, and none of the services he received in the juvenile system seemed to work.
“He was given evidence-based services to separate him from that gun, and he couldn’t do it,” she remarked. “He chose to keep seeking that gun out.”
Harris read the judge a letter he had prepared, saying he had been mislead to think the things he was doing weren’t wrong and that he wanted to do better. He said while in the Elkhart County Jail for the past year, he was taking steps to better himself and not make the same mistakes.
Christofeno told Harris he could have easily been facing a murder charge if he killed his intended victim or an innocent bystander, and said he had seen him show no remorse for the attempted murder. He said the evidence showed that Harris shouldn’t be given alternative sentencing in the juvenile justice system, and shouldn’t get a 20-year sentence for trying to kill someone.
“When the verdict came in, maybe your counsel couldn’t see you but I could see your reaction, it was like a light switch. You reverted to that young man out in the street with a gun. You were no longer the immature kid that the jury saw,” Christofeno remarked. “You didn’t get the message in the juvenile system, you say you got the message in the adult system. We’ll see.”