A teenager from Arkansas has pleaded guilty to shooting and killing a U.S. service member from Westbrook during an attempted robbery of a gas station in North Little Rock in 2019.
Drequan Lamont Robinson, 19, pleaded guilty Monday to first-degree murder in the shooting death of Shawn McKeough Jr., 23, who tackled one of two gunmen during the attempted robbery.
Robinson, who was 17 when he killed McKeough, avoids the possibility of the death penalty by pleading guilty.
As part of the plea, he will serve at least 42 years in prison, or 70% of the 60-year sentence, before he is eligible for parole, according to records filed in the Pulaski County Circuit Court.
The plea took McKeough's family by surprise, his parents said Tuesday. Robinson's trial had been scheduled for 2020, but it was repeatedly postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic that disrupted court proceedings, said Lisa Hebert, McKeough's mother.
McKeough's family was in Florida when they heard the news, which they received coincidentally moments before kicking off a fundraiser golf tournament in McKeough's memory at a Bradenton country club. They said the proceeds will benefit the Gary Sinise Foundation and the Summit Project in Maine, organizations dedicated to honoring and serving veterans.
The fundraiser group was about to tee off when Shawn McKeough Sr. received a phone call from the victim advocate in Arkansas who informed them that Robinson had accepted the plea and was sentenced the same day.
"Originally, we wanted the death penalty and wanted to go to trial, but after talking it over with the prosecutors, they said this was a better way," McKeough Sr. said. Because Robinson pleaded guilty, he will not be able to appeal his sentence.
But the rapid resolution means the family will never get to confront Robinson during a trial.
"It will never be enough, but it's something. It's the justice we can get," McKeough Sr. said.
McKeough was killed inside a Valero Big Red gas station and convenience store after he tackled a gunman in an attempt to stop the robbery, North Little Rock police said at the time.
McKeough and his girlfriend Sarah Terrano were among eight people inside the convenience store when two gunmen entered. When the robbers ordered everyone to the floor, McKeough rushed one of the men. A second gunman opened fire, striking McKeough in the face, killing him.
Robinson was identified as the shooter with the help of surveillance camera footage and he admitted to the shooting, but said he didn't mean to kill anyone, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette newspaper. Three other suspected reached plea agreements in exchange for agreeing to testify against Robinson, it reported.
After McKeough graduated from Westbrook High School in 2014, he enlisted in the Air Force and was deployed to Germany, Kuwait and South Korea. At time of his death, he had been in Arkansas less than four months. He and Terrano planned to settle down there and were in the process of buying a house.
Hebert said she hopes people will remember her son as a hero who died trying protect others.
As for Robinson, Hebert said an apology now would make no difference. It's unclear yet whether he addressed the family during the court proceedings Monday.
"I'm going to get on with my life, but I will never forgive him," Hebert said. "No matter what he says, there's no way."
This article is written by Matt Byrne from Portland Press Herald, Maine and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.