The man who shot two people while aiming at a Jeep that drove into a crowd of protesters on Interstate 225 in the summer of 2020 was sentenced Tuesday to 120 days in jail followed by five years probation.
Samuel Young, 24, earlier this year was convicted of seven felonies — two counts of second-degree assault, four counts of attempted manslaughter and a single count of illegally discharging his gun — after he fired five shots during a protest against police violence in Aurora on July 25, 2020.
Eighteenth Judicial District Judge Ben Leutwyler said he considered sending Young to prison but decided probation better served the interest of justice, citing Young’s community service, remorse and lack of a criminal record, as well as the broader backdrop of that summer’s nationwide movement for social justice.
He called Young’s actions “horrific,” and said he struggled to find the appropriate sentence.
“I’ve struggled since the day the jury returned their verdict,” he said. “This has been an unusual case… I all too often see folks who are repeat offenders. You have no criminal history. You are a young person, 24 years old, well-educated, you have a history of helping others, you’re needed at home. And you shot wholly indiscriminately into a crowd of hundreds of people.”
Young wounded two people as he marched with a crowd of several hundred on I-225. The crowd was blocking all lanes of traffic when a Jeep driver approached the group from behind and drove into the group, causing panic.
As protesters screamed and ran to get out of the Jeep driver’s path, Young drew his gun and fired five shots. Two shots hit the back of the Jeep, and two shots hit fellow protesters. One man was shot in the leg and another grazed in the head. A woman broke her leg when she leaped from the highway in the panic.
Young apologized to the people he shot at and those he wounded during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing and said he takes responsibility for his “wrong” decision to shoot at the Jeep.
“It all happened so fast, there was no time to think, just to react,” he said. “My reaction was wrong… I cannot take bullets back. I immediately regretted what I’d done and wanted to repair the damage.”
The man who was shot in the leg, Joseph Sagrillo, testified Tuesday that the bullet hit his femoral artery. He was rushed to a hospital for a five-hour emergency surgery, and spent months recovering. Sagrillo, who testified remotely, said he struggles with significant emotional trauma from the shooting.
“You can’t get around it,” Sagrillo said. “His actions directly negatively impacted my life. Even as I consider the pain I’ve experienced, I’m here today to plead for leniency.”
Sagrillo asked that Young be spared a prison sentence and hoped instead to meet with Young as part of a restorative justice process, a system that focuses on offenders directly making amends to their victims.
“Sometimes forgiveness is what is needed to right a wrong and end a cycle of social harm,” Sagrillo said.
Assistant District Attorney Tom Byrnes asked that Young serve a six-year prison sentence, saying the judge should make an example of Young in order to deter future shootings at protests or public gatherings.
“There was no reason he should have been bringing a gun to a protest on the interstate and using it against motorists on a highway,” Byrnes said. “It was reckless, and we’re all grateful and lucky that there weren’t people killed that day.”
After the sentencing, Byrnes said he respected the judge’s sentence. Young’s public defenders and his family declined to comment.
Young’s mother, who suffers from a serious health condition, testified that Young was her primary caretaker, and that she relied heavily on his help at home and would likely be forced to move into a nursing home if he went to prison.
Young, who remained in custody, will receive credit for 50 days of time served. His probation also requires him to pay restitution, undergo mental health treatment, go through substance abuse treatment and participate in restorative justice to the extent the victims request it.
The Jeep driver, who pulled off the highway and contacted police after the shooting, was not criminally charged.
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