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Mitchell man who 'took matters into own hands' pleads guilty for role in retaliatory shooting

Johnathon Velazquez pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with intent to cause bodily injury and discharging a firearm from a moving vehicle in an attempt to injure the victim involved in another investigation.

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Mitchell Police taped off areas of a field in the 1500 block of north Kimball Street Wednesday night after a 17-year-old was stabbed. (Hunter Dunteman / Republic)

A Mitchell man who was charged for his role in an Aug. 11 shooting that was an attempt to be a retaliatory response pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts stemming from the shooting.

Johnathon Velazquez, 20, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting an aggravated assault with intent to cause bodily injury and discharging a firearm from a moving vehicle in an attempt to injure the victim involved in another investigation, who prosecutors say was Skylar Battest, 20, of Mitchell.

As part of the plea deal, State Assistant Attorney General Douglas Barnett recommended Velazquez be sentenced to serve 15 years in prison, with two years suspended for the two charges he pleaded guilty to on Tuesday at the Davison County Public Safety Center courtroom.

During the Aug. 11 shooting, Velazquez was allegedly accompanied by Isaac Chytka, 25, of Mitchell, who pleaded not guilty to all charges that stemmed from the incident. At an Aug. 31 hearing, Barnett dubbed Velazquez as the “trigger man,” meaning he was the suspect who allegedly shot at the vehicle "13 times.” Barnett previously noted Chytka's role entailed being the "wheelman."

Barnett said Velazquez and Chytka believed the victim, Battest, had some “wrongdoing” in another investigation. However, he did not delve into details of the investigation involving Battest. As a result, Barnett alleged Chytka and Velazquez “took matters into their own hands” by locating Battest and shooting 13 separate rounds at his vehicle.

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“The victim had been involved, or at least a subject of another investigation, and (Chytka and Velazquez) believe the victim had some wrongdoing pursuing to that investigation. This defendant, along with the codefendant, allegedly took matters into their own hands, which included securing a Glock 9 mm handgun with a high-capacity magazine and located the victim and pursued him in a motor vehicle,” Barnett said during the Aug. 31 hearing at the Davison County Public Safety Center courtroom. “This particular defendant is alleged to be the trigger man in this incident. We believe, at least at this time, that there were 13 separate rounds fired at the victim’s vehicle.”

According to an 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 the alleged suspects who shot at the victim 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” the victim.

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.

Judge Chris Giles is presiding over the case and is set to sentence Velazquez on Jan. 4, 2022. He could face a sentence of up to 17 years years in prison for the two charges he pleaded guilty. Aggravated assault with intent to cause bodily injury is a Class 3 felony that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison with a $30,000 fine, while discharging a firearm from a moving vehicle is a Class 6 felony that carries a maximum punishment of up to two years in prison.

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.

“The inference is, whoever the wheelman was, in this case Mr. Chytka, was placing the vehicle in a position in which those projectiles could strike the victim’s vehicle,” Barnett said, noting he believes it’s “very fortunate” that nobody was killed in the shooting.

Chytka’s request for a bond modification on Tuesday was denied. Giles pointed to the “serious nature” of the charges as a key factor for denying the bond modification. Chytka’s cash-only bond remains at $50,000. He’s being held in custody at the Davison County jail.

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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: CRIME AND COURTS
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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