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Plankinton teen gets jail for shooting

Logan Evans is escorted out of the courtroom in the Hanson County Courthouse after being sentenced for aggravated assault Wednesday in Alexandria. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)

ALEXANDRIA — A Plankinton teenager wept Wednesday in the Hanson County Courthouse as he apologized for shooting his friend in June.

“I made a choice that was very reckless,” Logan Evans said, choking up, “and caused harm to a good friend and put strain on both our families. I would just like to apologize and accept whatever punishment and try to get past it.”

Evans, 18, received a five-year suspended state prison sentence for aggravated assault and will instead serve 150 days in county jail — 30 days immediately; 30 days each starting March 1, 2014, and Oct. 1, 2014; and 30 days each starting March 1, 2015, and Oct. 1, 2015. The state prison time could later be imposed if Evans does not successfully complete five years of probation.

Evans and Nick Lawson, along with two female passengers, were driving June 22 to Sioux Falls on Interstate 90 between Mitchell and Alexandria. According to court documents, Evans was driving the vehicle and Lawson, who was 17 at the time, was in the back seat. Evans pointed a 9 mm pistol toward the back seat after he’d removed the magazine. Thinking the gun wasn’t loaded, he pulled the trigger.

Lynn Moran, a Mitchell attorney representing Lawson and his family, told the court Wednesday the bullet entered the right side of Lawson’s chest just below his nipple at a downward angle. It exited through his back after tearing a hole in his liver. Lawson underwent eight surgeries, received nine pints of blood, was in the hospital for three weeks and continues to recover through therapy, Moran said.

Although some of Lawson’s travel, food and lodging expenses were covered by fundraising in Plankinton, Moran said medical bills are still mounting.

Judge Tim Bjorkman ordered that Evans pay $202,155 in restitution, which is the current portion of medical bills for the Lawson family that is not covered by insurance. He also ordered Evans to pay any future medical expenses not covered by insurance that the family may incur due to Lawson’s injury.

“What Nicholas hasn’t had yet is any formal psychological counseling,” Moran said. “My concern for him is that at some point he might experience post-traumatic stress disorder or a related psychological injury as a result of this incident.”

Bjorkman also ordered Evans must pay for any counseling Lawson obtains as a result of the injury.

Evans’ attorney, Rebecca Millan, requested a suspended imposition of sentence for her client, which would allow him to eliminate the felony conviction from his record if he follows all terms of probation. She argued he is a good candidate because he does not have any prior felonies, is a hard worker and is responsible.

Bjorkman denied the request.

“It’s not the right message sent at this time by granting a suspended imposition,” Bjorkman said. “I also think sometimes a young person, once granted a suspended imposition, can too easily lose track of the gravity of a matter and fall into more trouble.”

Moran spoke on behalf of Lawson, who did not attend the sentencing, and said Lawson didn’t want Evans to go to prison. However, Lawson felt Evans needs to serve a small amount of jail time and probation. Lawson acknowledged Evans didn’t mean to shoot him, but was still not comfortable with having a no-contact order lifted.

Judge Bjorkman further ordered that Evans speak to hunter safety courses in Davison and Aurora counties about the importance of gun safety.

While he serves his first jail term, Evans must speak to youth groups and schools approved by court services about gun safety. Bjorkman said he will approve his release for those events.

“A young person like you who, as a perpetrator, has gone through the experience you have, has a lot more authenticity and is a lot more powerful than another person,” Bjorkman said. “You may be able to save another tragedy from happening.”

Bjorkman ordered Evans to have no contact with Lawson and to write a letter of apology to him within seven days.

Evans must also use his best efforts to participate in victim reconciliation mediation with Lawson, when and if Lawson is ready.

“Going forward, learn how to not only feel forgiven, but to seek forgiveness within yourself,” Bjorkman said. “Allow yourself to move ahead. If you don’t, then you’re more likely to struggle with emotional problems that will hold you back.”