Jonathan Scott, 52, only wanted to rattle the teen so he'd return the lunchbox he allegedly stole from Scott's delivery truck, he testified during his trial.
Scott fired shots above 16-year-old Mustafa Bearfield’s head as the boy fled from the vehicle the morning of June 21, 2016, AL.com reported. When Bearfield collapsed in the grass near the Huntsville, Alabama convenience store where Scott had been making a delivery, Scott thought he was pretending from the way he fell, he said, WHNT reported.
But the unarmed teen had been shot to death. He was pronounced dead at the scene, WAFF reported.
"It was just a cooler,” Scott told police, reported AL.com. “It was not worth a kid's life. He was just a boy. Why did I even try to scare him?"
The defense didn’t argue against Scott as the shooter, and sought to prove that he wasn’t reckless, just negligent, in fatally shooting Bearfield, AL.com reported. Negligence would carry a penalty of no more than a year in prison.
But on Wednesday, a jury found that Scott was indeed reckless when he shot the teen. He was convicted of manslaughter, WAFF reported. He faces up to 20 years behind bars.
Scott testified that he usually kept thousands of dollars in the cooler that Bearfield allegedly took, WHNT reported. He couldn’t remember if those items were in the cooler when Bearfield was killed, the news station said. Photos showed there were food and drinks inside, AL.com reported.
“Give it back or I’ll shoot,” Scott threatened the teen, according to his testimony. Bearfield walked, then ran from Scott, and that’s when he started shooting, the news station reported.
Scott cried after the jury returned its verdict, AL.com reported. His attorney, Chad Morgan, told the publication his client has always been remorseful over Bearfield’s death.
A police spokesperson told WHNT after the shooting that people should call the police for such matters.
"Property can be replaced — lives can't," said Lt. Stacy Bates. "What we want people to remember is if your life is not being threatened or someone else's life is not being threatened, items can be replaced. And if they're fleeing and leaving the scene, call us and let us do our job," Bates said.