It’s been a little over two years since three men were injured by gunfire during a lunchtime shootout in the parking lot of a busy Shenandoah Avenue restaurant.
That violence, sparked by a minor traffic dispute, resulted in the instigator, Anthony Brian Barnett, being found guilty of felony wounding by mob and sentenced to more than seven years in prison.
On Wednesday in Roanoke Circuit Court, another man charged in the case, Barnett’s cousin, Lamar Antoine Barnett, 36, pleaded no contest to malicious wounding as part of a mob and was sentenced to a five-year term, suspended after 18 months. He has already served 106 days in custody.
Prosecutors at Wednesday’s hearing reviewed the details that came out of a jury trial last year:
On May 29, 2019, Anthony Barnett had been pulling out of the parking lot of Bob & Cheryl’s restaurant when he got into a dispute with another driver, Miquel “Shane” Harper. They had words, and Barnett phoned two of his cousins, Lamar Barnett and Floyd Mitchell Harris, who joined him at the scene. Harper was called out into the parking lot and a scuffle ensued around him, but he was armed with a .380-caliber Glock and ultimately shot and injured the two Barnetts before he himself was shot from behind, by Harris, according to prosecutors.
All three men were hospitalized.
Although the restaurant was doing a busy lunch trade that afternoon — and was crowded with employees and customers, including an infant — no one else was hurt.
In describing Lamar Barnett’s plea agreement in court, Roanoke Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Joshua Dietz said the 18-month prison term was below sentencing guidelines, recommendations he said had been elevated by much older convictions in Barnett’s history. He also said Barnett was the most seriously injured of the three men who were shot.
Defense attorney David Robinson said in court that had the case gone to trial, he would’ve disputed whether Lamar Barnett had known what he was being drawn into that day and whether he actually physically assaulted anyone. Robinson also raised the issue of Lamar Barnett’s comparatively low culpability: “He never touched or possessed a gun.”
In light of Anthony Barnett’s multi-year punishment, Robinson said, the plea agreement seemed the best option. It also prompted prosecutors to drop charges, including firearms offenses, that could have brought Lamar Barnett years of mandatory minimum time.
Security video of the melee does suggest that all three men attacked Harper, and an eyewitness at the previous trial testified that the cousins joined in once “Mr. Harper started to fight back.” But Lamar Barnett, in his remarks to the court, maintained his innocence.
“This was not planned. I was at work. I didn’t know none of this was going to happen,” he claimed, saying he’d shown up when his cousin called him because “family first.”
“I had no intention of actually hurting Mr. Harper. … I never shot him, I never touched him. … I was just basically at a fight,” Barnett told the judge.
Harper was never criminally charged in the incident.
Harris initially faced the same counts as the Barnetts — including malicious wounding, malicious wounding by mob, attempted murder and use of a firearm — but those charges were dropped in 2019 and have not been brought back.