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Mitchell man who 'took matters into own hands' sentenced to 12 years in prison for role in shooting

“This was just stupid to go out and take matters into your own hands,” Judge Chris Giles said to a shackled up Velazquez.

Caution tape serves as a barrier at an incident involving authorities in this file photo. (Republic file photo)
Caution tape serves as a barrier at an incident involving authorities in this file photo.
Republic file photo

MITCHELL — A Mitchell man who shot multiple rounds at a driver in retaliation to a separate incident was sentenced Tuesday to serve 12 years in prison.

Prior to receiving his 12-year prison sentence for being the “trigger man” in an Aug. 11 shooting that took place in a Mitchell neighborhood, Johnathon Velazquez, 20, apologized for his role in the incident that did not cause any fatalities.

“I just want to apologize for what I did. I know I’m not a person out there looking to hurt people,” Velazquez said during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing. “I have to man up and take responsibility for it.”

While Judge Chris Giles recognized Velazquez’s clean criminal record, he said the serious nature of the charges warrants prison time.

“This was just stupid to go out and take matters into your own hands,” Giles said to a shackled up Velazquez.

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Velazquez recently pleaded guilty to two felony charges stemming from the shooting, which included aggravated assault with intent to cause bodily injury and discharging a firearm from a moving vehicle in an attempt to injure a victim. For the aggravated assault with intent to cause bodily injury charge, Velazquez was sentenced to 15 years in prison with three years suspended. He was also sentenced to two years in prison with two years suspended for discharging a firearm from a moving vehicle.

During Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, a few more details of Velazquez’s motives to shoot 13 rounds at a vehicle being driven by the victim surfaced.

According to Velazquez’s attorney, Dava Wermers, Velazquez believed the victim he shot at in the early morning hours of Aug. 11 played a role in another incident that resulted in the death of Velazquez’s close friend. The victim in the shooting was identified as Skylar Battest, who Wermers said was provoking Velazquez and his friend, Isaac Chytka, the other Mitchell man charged for playing a role in the shooting. Court documents say Battest managed to avoid getting injured after being shot multiple times.

Leading up to the shooting that took place on the 110 block of West Hanson Avenue, Wermers said Battest was following the vehicle Velazquez and Chytka, the driver of the vehicle Velazquez shot his glock 9 mm out of, were riding in shortly before the shooting took place. She acknowledged that Velazquez and Chytka were also following Battest, characterizing it as a back and forth type of situation leading up to the shooting.

Assistant Attorney General Douglas Barnett shot down claims that Battest had any role in the other incident that left Velazquez’s friend dead, claiming it was an unfounded assumption. As Barnett put it, “this thing just spun out of control.”

“What this comes down to is a series of criminal thinking on an unfounded assumption that the victim had something to do with another victim who died. I am not able to make any connections,” Barnett said.

Considering Velazquez fired 13 rounds at Battest’s vehicle during the shooting, Barnett said it’s miraculous there were no fatalities. Barnett pushed for the maximum sentence of 17 years in prison, but Judge Giles shaved a total of five years off, citing Velazquez's clean criminal record.

“We are all very fortunate we are not sitting here talking about a homicide,” Barnett said. ”That’s where this defendant caught his biggest break. ”

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Wermers pointed to the “high emotions” that Velazquez was experiencing after coping with the loss of his friend, paired with being told Battest had a role in the death, as reasons he wasn't thinking clearly during the incident. Attorneys did not name the friend of Velazquez who died in a separate incident.

Wermers said Velazquez was in an emotional state and not thinking clearly when he opted to secure a semi-automatic pistol with the intent of harming Battest.

According to the arrest affidavit, Mitchell Police officers responded to a call that came in from Battest around 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 11, alleging that a black car followed his vehicle to the 1100 block of West Hanson Ave., where they “shot multiple rounds” at the vehicle.

After officers arrived at the scene, they located the black vehicle with Velazquez and Chytka inside near the area where the shooting occurred. According to the police report, Velazquez told authorities that he was “not trying to hit the victim,” rather he “wanted to scare” him.

Officers searched Chytka's vehicle and found a Glock semi-automatic pistol with a 33-round extended magazine. A grand jury indicted Velazquez and Chytka on Aug. 20, leading to their arrest.

While Chytka was the driver, his role resulted in one fewer charge. He was charged with one count of aggravated assault with intent to cause bodily injury and indifference to human life; one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; and one count of aggravated assault with intent to cause bodily injury with a dangerous weapon, all class 3 felonies.

Chytka is being held in custody at the Davison County jail on a $50,000 cash-only bond.

Judge Giles previously noted that the court could consider Chytka as a "habitual offender" due to a past felony, which would amount to a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison with a $30,000 fine, if found guilty on all charges.

Related Topics: SHOOTINGS
Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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