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Man acquitted of felony charges in PA movie theater shooting

May 16, 2021 GMT

WASHINGTON, Pa. (AP) — A man has been acquitted of felony charges but convicted of misdemeanors in a shooting at a southwestern Pennsylvania mall movie theater that left a teenage boy with a gunshot wound more than two years ago.

The (Washington) Observer-Reporter reports that jurors in Washington County deliberated for more than 14 hours before acquitting 55-year-old Chris Williams of two felony aggravated assault counts and a misdemeanor charge of terroristic threats.

The panel convicted the Waynesburg man on lesser charges of reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and simple assault, and the judge found him guilty of summary offenses.

Defense attorney Al Lindsay called the verdict “a great relief,” adding that felony convictions would have jeopardized his client’s position as a corrections officers at SCI-Greene, where he has been on unpaid leave. Lindsay said he didn’t know if the misdemeanor convictions would affect his client’s state prison job.

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“We’re very pleased to get free of those felony counts,” Lindsay said.

Williams was charged in a March 2019 brawl with a group of six teenage boys during a late-night showing of “Us” at the Washington Crown Center mall’s movie theater. Investigators alleged that after the fight, Williams pursued the boys after they left and pulled a gun when he saw them in an exit hallway. During a scuffle, the weapon went off and wounded a 17-year-old boy in the leg.

Williams alleged that four of the boys were waiting for him in the hallway and he feared they were going to attack him again, prompting him to pull out his gun in self-defense. The jury convicted Williams on all charges related to the initial fight, but acquitted him on nearly everything that transpired afterward.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Patrick Schulte said he will seek jail time but denied the case was about race, although Williams is white and the six teens are Black.

“This was never, ever, ever about Black vs. white,” he said after the verdict. “It was about right vs. wrong.”