A Schuylkill County man was sentenced to serve four to eight years in a state prison Monday in Carbon County court for his part in a drive-by shooting incident that occurred last year in Weatherly.
Christopher Ray Harris, 24, of S. Hancock St., McAdoo, was sentenced by Judge Steven R. Serfass for his part in the shooting incident. Harris previously pleaded guilty to one count each of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, recklessly endangering another person, criminal conspiracy-to reckless endangering, and discharging a firearm into an occupied structure. He was one of four persons charged in the incident.
Defense Attorney David V. Lampman II said his client made a mistake and knows he was very fortunate that no one got hurt in the incident.
Serfass agreed, adding that Harris was "extremely fortunate" that no one got hurt.
Harris told Serfass he was sorry for what happened and apologized to the victims and the court. He added that he had a serious alcohol abuse problem at the time.
Assistant District Attorney William E. McDonald, who is prosecuting the case, praised the work of the Weatherly police and their thorough investigation of the case. He also said the plea agreement reached in the matter with Harris was fair considering all the circumstances.
Serfass said the situation could have ended up much worst than what it was.
Other defendants charged in connection with the incident were Andrew Ortiz of Hazleton, Joshua Zink of Columbia, and James Delbo of Ashland.
Delbo has also pleaded guilty in the case and is awaiting sentencing. The Ortiz and Zink cases are pending.
All were charged for an incident that occurred on Feb. 13, 2011.
According to Weatherly police this is what happened:
On Sunday, Feb. 13, about 2:55 a.m. officers were called to the area of 327 Yeakle St. for a shooting. The investigation revealed that three houses, a garage, a vehicle, and a utility pole were hit with rounds fired from a 9mm and .22-caliber firearms. The three houses struck were 319, 327 and 335 Yeakle St. The vehicle hit was parked in front of 319 Yeakle.
Police said the residents of 319 Yeakle were Tara and Steven Barnic, who said they were asleep at the time along with their children, two sons, ages 15 and 2, and a 1-year-old daughter.
Police said 335 Yeakle was occupied by Charlaine and Thomas Powell, who were also asleep at the time of the shooting. The third home, 327 Yeakle, had no one home at the time of the incident. No one was hit by the shots, police said.
Through the course of the investigation police said they learned that Delbo had made threats on the lives of Matt Sipler and Alyssa A. Adams. He had resided with them along Yeakle Street but was asked to leave when he failed to pay rent. Police said his threats included that he would "get even" with them for evicting him from the residence.
Police noted that on June 27, 2010, they were called to 335 Yeakle St. for a man with a gun. That man was Delbo.
Police said on March 3 Andrew Ortiz, 23, came to the Weatherly police station and informed officers that he was the driver of the car in which the shots were fired from on Feb. 12. He identified the shooter as Delbo.
He said on the morning of the incident he, Delbo and Harris were at Harris' home in McAdoo drinking alcohol. Ortiz said Harris went to bed and Delbo then asked him if he would "get his back" in a fight. Ortiz said they then drove to Weatherly with Delbo giving him directions on where to go.
When they got to Yeakle Street, Delbo pulled out a gun and began firing out the window of the vehicle at the nearby homes. After that gun was emptied he pulled out a second gun and fired, Ortiz said. Ortiz said he didn't know anything about the guns prior to the shots being fired, he only believed that they were going for a fight.
Harris later said Ortiz told police that Delbo took his 9mm and .22 caliber handguns without his permission the morning of the shooting.
At Delbo's plea hearing McDonald said he was not the shooter as the police report had previously indicated, but did not identity the alleged shooter.
In addition to the jail term Serfass ordered Harris to supply a DNA sample, zero tolerance imposed on drug and alcohol use, ordered he get both a D&A and mental health evaluations and follow any recommendations for treatment, and have no contact with the victims or his co-defendants.
He was ordered to make total restitution for damages of $1,486.69, which is his share divided by four, and pay court costs, which average about $1,000. He was given credit for 63 days spent in jail on the charges and began the prison term immediately.