A man will likely spend the rest of his life in prison after he was sentenced to 25 years in a shooting at a Gwinnet County storage facility that left a victim paralyzed.
George J. Harris, 68, was convicted Aug. 17 of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of a felony.
Harris had claimed self-defense in the December 2015 shooting that left Stephen Hawkins in a wheelchair.
Harris was at a storage facility on Dec. 28, 2015, when he got into an argument with another man. Harris followed the man as he walked to his vehicle, cursing at him. As the man drove away, Harris made shooting motions with his hand, according to a release from the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office.
After that man left, Hawkins arrived at the storage facility to load boxes into a unit. “Still incensed” over the previous argument, Harris and his sister began yelling at Hawkins and asked if he was “looking for trouble,” according to the release.
Harris’ 95-year-old mother approached Hawkins and also began yelling at him and poking him in the chest.
Harris went to his car and got a gun. He approached the man’s car and shot him in the chest, severing his spinal cord and puncturing a lung.
Harris claimed he shot the man in self-defense. The bullet entered the right side of Hawkins’ chest and exited through the left side of his back, indicating he was turning away from Harris when he was shot. The jury found that Harris was not justified in shooting Hawkins and convicted him.
Harris choked back tears as he told the courtroom his regret, according to Channel 2 Action News
“I’m so sorry I even showed up that day,” he said. “I wish I stayed at home because God, heaven knows I didn’t plan on hurting anyone that day.”
Hawkins is paralyzed for life.
“It was a hollow point bullet,” he said in court. “If it was mushroomed, I would’ve died the moment I was shot.”
Prosecutors insisted a trigger-happy Harris knew what he was doing and that the shots were a result of his anger, Channel 2 reported.
Still, a teary-eyed Harris maintained his intentions were not to kill Hawkins.
“I know you must feel a lot of hurt against me, but I love you,” he said. “I was not trying to kill you, young man. I was not.”
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