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Sioux Falls man gets 10 years in prison for summer shooting

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — A convicted felon who fired a warning shot that wounded a woman at a party last summer in southeast South Dakota has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for an aggravated assault charge.

Circuit Judge Brad Zell ordered Eugene Willis Garcia, 26, to serve at least 70 percent of his sentence because of previous felony convictions, the Argus Leader reported Saturday.

Garcia was on parole for cocaine trafficking when he fired a single gunshot in the direction of two men and a woman at the apartment complex where he lived in Sioux Falls. Garcia was not allowed to have a handgun because he is a convicted felon.

The bullet struck the woman, puncturing a lung.

Garcia said he fired a warning shot down the hallway to clear the apartment after someone else at the party showed a weapon, the paper reported.

Prosecutor Aaron McGowan told the judge that although the woman has fully recovered, it was a dangerous situation.

"There is no doubt that this defendant fired a shot down the hall and it struck the victim," McGowan said.

Garcia's attorney countered by saying that the story of the July 19 incident was a bit more complicated than what the prosecution was presenting. Attorney Mike Miller said Garcia had been repeatedly threatened by former associates since he was released from federal prison.

"Clearly, it's not a smart decision for him to be getting a gun, but he was legitimately scared," Miller said.

Zell told Garcia that he could show remorse by changing his life after he gets out of prison. He said that instead of seeing his prison sentence as a curse, Garcia should consider himself lucky.

"If that bullet had traveled any further into the victim's body, you'd have killed her," Zell said.