A mother who lost her son hugged the mother of the man who shot him after he was sentenced to prison Wednesday.
Johndrick Lors Levert Barnes, 21, of Augusta, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the March 19, 2011, shooting of James Sterling “Jamie” Gillette Jr., 19.
Superior Court Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet sentenced Barnes to five years in prison, with credit for the nearly two years he already has served, followed by two years’ probation and a $1,000 fine. The hearing took place at the Columbia County Justice Center in Evans.
Gillette’s mother, Michelle Stewart Baker, and Barnes’ mother, Kesia Sampson, and their families vowed to work together to help prevent other families from the same outcomes.
“Unity is power,” Sampson said. “Turn the bad into the good. … Unity is power, and we’re going to work together.”
Overstreet urged Barnes to dedicate time during his probation to CSRA Saving our Students, which Baker and Gillette’s aunt, Anita Mills, started. Through the organization, they promote gun safety, bullying awareness and good decision-making in Richmond County schools.
“We’ve suffered a tragedy,” Baker said. “We want to do whatever we can do to save other children and families from having to go through the same thing.”
Gillette was an employee of the Belair Conference Center, where he was working a 16th birthday party for one of soul singer James Brown’s granddaughters. Word of the party spread, and about 200 people showed up. Fights broke out inside, so guests were ushered outside. Gillette was holding the door for people to go outside when shooting started in the parking lot.
Barnes shot a .380-caliber pistol into the air, and a stray bullet hit Gillette.
Assistant District Attorney Rex Myers said that it is clear a bullet from Barnes’ gun killed Gillette but that he doesn’t believe it was an intentional shooting.
“Johndrick is very remorseful for ever going to that party,” said his attorney, Clayton Jolly. The shooting was an “act of carelessness and a lack of thinking through.”
“It is a tragedy for both sides,” Jolly said.