Playing lookout for his two cousins, an East St. Louis man watched as they robbed and shot a man in the back at a MetroLink station near Casino Queen.
But the first shooting and robbery wasn’t a wake-up call for 23-year-old Shaquille Turner, said Assistant State’s Attorney Erin Connor. That same month, in November 2016, he went to a Swansea MetroLink station with one of his cousins, robbing and shooting a man in the face.
“He ruined the lives of two men,” Connor said. “This was not a crime of opportunity ... He didn’t shoot anyone, he acted as lookout, but he enabled the other two to commit a crime.”
Turner was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years in prison for his part in the two shootings. He will have to serve 85 percent of the sentence. Two charges of armed robbery with a firearm were dismissed as a part of his plea deal.
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As a result of the shootings, Eric Rasmussen, who was shot near Casino Queen, has to use a walker to get around after a bullet shattered three vertebrae. Michael McCord, the Swansea victim, still has the bullet lodged in his throat and will forever speak with a hoarse voice. Turner’s cousins, 23-year-old Deangelo Franklin and 17-year-old Javar Hicks, were sentenced to 31 and 25 years in prison, respectively.
“Right is right and wrong is wrong,” said St. Clair County Circuit Clerk Judge Zina Cruse as she handed down Turner’s sentence. “If you’re with someone who has a gun, I can’t imagine anything good is going to come from that.”
Connor asked for a 25-year sentence for Turner, while defense attorney Gregory Nester asked for 12. Prior to these aggravated battery and armed robbery charges, Turner only had three misdemeanor charges, all of which were dismissed.
Turner apologized in court to McCord and Rasmussen. He said if he could go back and do it all over again, he’d take it all back; he didn’t mean for either man to get hurt.
“With the part I did play, I probably do deserve prison time,” Turner said. “As crazy as it sounds, I’m OK with that ... I was caught up at the wrong time with the wrong people in the wrong place.”
He spoke about his childhood, about being conceived by his grandfather raping his mother. His aunts were his half-sisters, and the family was poor, he said. His mom didn’t want that for him, so she gave him up for adoption when he was 4. He found his birth mother again when he was 17 and fought hard to feel like he belonged.
Turner asked the court for another chance. Nester said he hopes to get his GED while in prison so that when he’s released, he can be a successful member of society.
“Shaquille got caught up in some bad thinking by a group of young kids,” Nester said. “He never wanted anyone to get hurt or shot ... it was a perfect storm that led to these crimes.”
McCord and two of Turner’s friends were in court as Turner was sentenced. One friend, Destiny Haynes, testified on Turner’s behalf.
“Shaq makes mistakes, just like every other human being, but his heart is right and with a second chance, I’m sure he can get his life together,” Haynes said.