The man who shot two demonstrators while firing at a Jeep that drove into the crowd during a protest on Interstate 225 in Aurora in the summer of 2020 was found guilty of assault and attempted manslaughter Thursday.
A jury found Samuel Young, 24, guilty of two counts of second-degree assault, four counts of attempted manslaughter and a single count of illegally discharging his gun. Jurors deliberated for about nine hours.
Some of Young’s supporters cried as the verdicts were read. Young did not visibly react. He stood flanked by his attorneys as he heard the guilty verdicts. He was later handcuffed and taken into custody in the courtroom.
The jury found Young guilty of the lesser charges of second-degree assault, not first-degree assault as was originally charged in the case. He faced between four and 12 years in prison on each of the first-degree assault charges, but now faces only up to 18 months in prison on each of the second-degree assault charges, because the jury also found he acted in the heat of passion.
He also faces between one and three years in prison on each of the attempted manslaughter and gun charges when he is sentenced on May 17.
Young attended a protest against police violence in Aurora on July 25, 2020, in which a crowd of several hundred people moved onto and blocked I-225. As the crowd walked on the highway, blocking all lanes, a Jeep driver approached the group from behind.
As the Jeep approached, a man who was driving slowly behind the protesters turned his truck sharply in front of the Jeep in an attempt to stop it. On Wednesday, the man, Sebastian Sassi, testified that he believed the Jeep driver intended to run over protesters and that he did not think much before turning his new pickup truck into the Jeep’s path.
“In that moment you’re not thinking about the fact that you still have 72 payments to make on a truck, you’re just thinking someone is going to die,” he testified.
The Jeep hit the truck, damaging both vehicles, but the Jeep driver then continued into the crowd, sending screaming protesters running out of the Jeep’s path. As the Jeep driver passed through the crowd, Young fired five shots at it.
Two shots hit the back of the Jeep, and two shots hit fellow protesters. One man was shot in the leg and another man grazed in the head. A woman broke her leg when she leaped from the highway in the panic.
The Jeep driver, who pulled off the highway and contacted police after the shooting, was not criminally charged. During Young’s trial, prosecutors said the driver never intended to hurt any protesters.
The defense team argued during trial that Young reacted on instinct, fired in defense of others and did not intend to hurt anyone — and so was not guilty of a crime. Prosecutors argued firing a gun into a crowd was reckless, unreasonable and criminal.
Young’s family and supporters declined to comment after the verdict, as did his public defenders and prosecutors.
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