20 Year Sentence in Gas Station Shooting that Killed Man, Injured Teenage Girl

It was a moment of anger, Stephen Barnes said, that led him to fire a gun into a car parked at a gas station, killing 24-year-old Stephon Emmanuel Way and seriously wounding a 16-year-old girl.

On Wednesday he was sentenced for that crime; 20 years on a charge of second-degree murder.

I wish that you forgive me,” the 23-year-old, whose son was born just yesterday, told the families of the victims in court today. “I live with that for the rest of my life.”

Judge Thomas Motley nearly did not accept the plea agreement between government and Barnes’ defense attorney, telling the attorneys that he was concerned that an assault charge on behalf of the surviving teenager was not pursued.

There were two individuals that were shot by gunfire. One of those individuals still has a bullet lodged in their head,” Motley said, referring to the teen. “There is no charge with regard to what happened to her. There is nothing that acknowledges that she is a victim.”

Prosecutor Heather Carlton said the agreed upon sentencing range for the second-degree murder plea allowed Barnes to be sentenced at the top end of the guidelines, possibly at a higher punishment than Barnes could have received had the case gone to trial and both the murder and assault charges been pursued.

She added that teen’s family approved of the plea, and that the teen herself wished to avoid having to come to court and testify in the case.

She is traumatized and she is trying to move on. She did not want to see the defendant even today,” Carlton said.

But the teen’s mother, who spoke at sentencing, said she did not understand how Barnes could not be sentenced for the injuries her daughter sustained.

She can not swallow. She has mental problems. Now my daughter’s a hermit,” she said. “There is no justice. I don’t understand how someone can not get some time.”

For Way’s mother, the pain was two-fold.

This is the second son I lost to the streets,” she told Motley. “It’s crazy and it hurts so bad to lose not one, but two, sons to gunfire.”

When entering the guilty plea, Barnes told Motley that he used a .45 automatic pistol to shoot into a car of people.

The government argued that Barnes was walking from his car to a cashier at the Benning Road gas station when Way called out to him, saying something like, “What are you looking at?”

Barnes walked back to his car, got his gun, walked to Way’s vehicle, and shot four times. One bullet struck Way in the head, killing him. Another struck the 16-year-old girl in the face.

“I just felt disrespected,” Barnes said. “I just blanked out and I was angry.”

On Wednesday Barnes’ defense attorney, Eugene Ohm, told Motley that Barnes had mental health problems and had been in various programs since he was nine years old.

He was passed around programs. He was misdiagnosed. He was placed on psychotropic medications that were not approved for children. I’m blaming society in part for what happened that night,” Ohm said.

Motley’s last words for Barnes touched on Ohm’s concerns.

Every life has value,” he said. “Our hope for you is that in the time you [received] you will change.”

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