Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Former Hill AFB Airman Daniel Clemons Makes Plea Deal In July 2008 Salt Lake Nightclub Shooting Of Tyler Lee, Could Face Life In Prison

On Wednesday November 5th, 2008, former Hill Air Force Base airman Daniel Eugene Clemons formally admitted shooting and wounding another man outside a Salt Lake City nightclub during a dispute over a woman. Clemons, 20, pleaded guilty in 3rd District Court to discharge of a firearm causing serious bodily injury, a first-degree felony, for wounding Tyler Lee on July 26th. He also pleaded guilty to third-degree felony possession of a firearm by a restricted person.

Related media stories published by the Salt Lake Tribune. More outlets undoubtedly will publish their stories later.

Clemons is also awaiting trial in New Jersey for allegedly shooting and wounding a man during a 2007 home invasion. He faces the possibility of life in prison in Utah when he is sentenced on December 22nd by Judge Randall Skanchy, although his plea deal, saving the taxpayer the cost of a jury trial, will likely result in a lesser sentence.

For more background, you can review my previous post HERE. To recap, the trouble started with a verbal altercation inside Club Manhattan because Clemons was dancing with Lance Lavizzo's ex-girlfriend. Lavizzo subsequently exited the club and headed toward Clemons, who grabbed an SKS assault rifle from his car, ripped a necklace from Lavizzo's neck, then pointed the rifle at Lavizzo's chest. Lavizzo grappled for the gun, threw it to the ground and ran. But Clemons picked up the rifle and fired, hitting Lavizzo's friend, Tyler Lee, in the abdomen.

Clemons was in the U.S. Air Force at the time, assigned to Hill AFB just south of Ogden. Despite facing charges in New Jersey, the Air Force had not restricted Clemons to the base. The Air Force declined to restrict him to the base because Clemons had been released by a New Jersey judge on $150,000 bail. The Air Force subsequently discharged him in August because of the Salt Lake City shooting.

Clemons had three playmates. Jeremy David Crist, 20, Destinee Williams, 22, and A1C Tacota Lemuel, 20, were initially charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly helping Clemons evade police after the shooting. Crist and Destinee Williams also appeared in court and both waived their right to preliminary hearings; their scheduling hearings are set for November 17th. Charges against Lemuel were dismissed earlier after prosecutors determined she was not involved in the shooting or its aftermath.

The failure of the Air Force to restrict Clemons to the base remains one of the all time brain farts. He was accused of a crime of violence, using a firearm. Precautions would have been not only appropriate, but imperative. Perhaps the New Jersey judge should have foreseen this and imposed extra conditions on Clemons' bail, requiring the Air Force to restrict him to base. But, like the rest of us, he was brought up to believe the military's word was its bond.

The U.S. Air Force violated his trust, not deliberately, but through negligence and incompetence. Equally sad is that this wouldn't have happened had Clemons chosen NOT to pick up Lance Lavizzo's discarded rifle.

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