RICHMOND, Va. -- Dominique T. Clark, the 34-year-old 82nd Airborne veteran who fatally shot a 16-year-old who had been part of a group breaking into a relative’s car in South Richmond in February, will likely serve no time and will pay a $2,500 fine.
Jurors in Richmond Circuit Court Thursday chose to convict Clark of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter after hearing evidence in the voluntary manslaughter case.
The shooting occurred at about 1:30 a.m. on February 25 on McRand Street, between 36th and 37th streets.
Clark was inside his rental home in that block, preparing party gifts with friends and relatives for the birthday party later in the day for himself and his one-year-old daughter, explained his attorney John Luxton.
They heard a car alarm going off and looked out the window to see four young men grouped around a car right outside, under the streetlight.
Luxton said Clark, who has a conceal-carry permit, grabbed his pistol from the kitchen and pushed into a holster in his back pocket.
He went out and confronted the teens, who went across the street into an alley.
Clark followed for a few steps, telling them to freeze, jurors were told.
The teens cursed him and reportedly threatened to kill him.
Verbal threats from the teens presented a key legal question for Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Herring – is that enough to provoke a violent response? The question was also one of the reasons the case was given to a grand jury. That grand jury had concerns about why Clark didn’t retreat, which is why the case came to trial. There were also indications that Clark was known to be fed up with the crime in his neighborhood.
That morning, when one of the youths appeared to reach for something in his waistband, Clark fired one shot, according the defense presented by Luxton.
Robert Lee Fox, 16, of Mechanicsville was fatally wounded and died later that day.
There was no question that the teens were breaking into cars that night. A weapon was not recovered, although two of the teens ran off. Fox was shown to have handled guns from a photo on his phone.
Prior to deliberations, the jury was given instructions that they could convict on the lesser charge, an instruction Luxton plans to challenge, since he believes the jury would likely have acquitted Clark on the voluntary manslaughter charge. A judge will formerly sentence Clark in the coming weeks. Typically, judges stick with the jury’s recommendations.
Luxton said his client has lost 50 pounds since the shooting.
"He was sorry for the young man – the young man was 16 years old," Luxton said. "It upset him. He said he’d been told that no one would ever be prepared to take someone’s soul . . . It bothered him a lot, although he really felt his life was in jeopardy at the time."
If this case and Luxton’s name sound familiar, he was the defense attorney for another Richmond man who shot and killed someone breaking into a loved one’s car.
Eric G. Driver Jr. fatally shot a masked man who was breaking into his girlfriend’s car in Richmond’s Union Hill neighborhood in broad daylight on April 22, 2009. Jamall Holman, 24, had been a standout football player whose live had spun out of control when he was confronted by Driver after Driver’s horrified girlfriend called out for help.
The menacing black mask – in court Luxton called it an “executioner’s mask” – was sort of the fabric equivalent of the threats reportedly shouted by the teens in the Clark case.
In the 2009 case, the burglar also allegedly took a threatening posture, according to Driver’s testimony.
A jury found Driver guilty of voluntary manslaughter in January 2010. He was ordered by the court to serve no time and pay no fine – the sentence the jury recommended.