INDIANAPOLIS - A store manager has pleaded guilty after a customer was killed during a dispute at a liquor store on the city’s east side.
Bryan Stonebraker, 54, was originally charged with voluntary manslaughter and reckless homicide, but pleaded guilty to felony battery after accepting a plea deal Wednesday.
In October of 2012, Warren Pope, a 27-year-old customer, went into Stoney’s Still Liquors located near 10th Street and Emerson Avenue.
Pope was acting strangely, unsure of what he wanted, and allegedly had a blood-alcohol content of 0.25 percent.
Stonebraker physically tried to guide Pope out of the store after the men got into a confrontation.
The pair got into fight and tumbled out the front door. Pope ended up on top of Stonebraker who pulled out a gun and shot the customer.
"I was trying to save my own skin. I’m sorry for what happened. I wish I could take it back," Stonebraker said in court.
"It could have been avoided. He could have picked up his phone or pushed his panic button. There was no reason for him to come from behind that counter," Barbara Ford, the victim’s mother, said.
Stonebraker's brother said he is a good man who had a terrible thing happen. He said he is an asset to society and doesn't belong in prison.
Prosecutors offered Stonebraker a plea deal. He accepted the deal and pleaded guilty to felony battery.
"We could have gone to trial and walked away without a guilty verdict. This allows for some level of closure for the family and allows them to move on and punishes the defendant for his conduct," Deputy Prosecutor Ryan Mears said.
The judge handed down an eight-year sentence with two years suspended and six years executed. The six years include three years in prison and three years in community corrections, which could be at a work-release facility.
Stonebraker's attorney Mark Sullivan had asked the judge for probation.
"I was hoping for that, but I understand her reasoning for the sentence and accept that," Sullivan said.
Stonebraker remains free on $50,000 bond. The judge gave him one week to get his affairs in order before he has to report to prison.
Follow Derrik Thomas on Twitter: @derrikthomas