John Guy Carlton brought a loaded pistol when he went to confront the man he suspected was supplying his girlfriend’s son with methamphetamine. A struggle ensued and the weapon fired, wounding the alleged dealer.
All three men will wake this morning behind bars.
A judge Tuesday sentenced Carlton to six months in the Natrona County Detention Center for the shooting and for marijuana found at his Mills home. The man he injured, Jason Michael Johnson, is incarcerated in the same jail while awaiting trial on unrelated weapons possession charges.
And the teenager that Carlton said he was trying to protect? Carver Fischer is serving three to five years for meth possession.
At his sentencing hearing in Natrona County District Court, Carlton said he was simply trying to keep his girlfriend safe while scaring Johnson. He initially told detectives the gun fired when he pistol-whipped the victim, but now claims it went off when Johnson went for the weapon.
“I’m very sorry for what I did and I never meant for anybody to get hurt,” Carlton told the court.
Judge Thomas Sullins was unmoved. He declined to sentence Carlton to probation, reasoning the defendant’s violent act and lengthy criminal history warranted jail time.
The shooting occurred during an April 4 altercation at Highland Cemetery. Earlier that day, Carlton and his girlfriend tried to convince Johnson to stop selling to Fischer, the defendant told police.
Johnson eventually left, but met with them again that evening at Highland Cemetery. Carlton’s girlfriend spoke first. As she walked back to her car, Carlton approached Johnson. When he felt his message wasn’t sinking in, Carlton pulled a pistol from his pants and pointed it at Johnson’s head.
“You think she is crazy?” he said, according to his statement to police. “You haven’t met me.”
Johnson was shot moments later. He tried to walk to a nearby hospital, but nearly passed out. Paramedics ultimately had to assist him.
Defense attorney Vaughn Neubauer portrayed his client as a man in an impossible situation. Carlton sought help several times from police and probation officers in the two weeks leading up to the shooting, without success.
“Someone he loved was spiraling out of control and he can’t get help from authorities,” Neubauer said.
Carlton did not contact police on the day of the confrontation. Nor was he initially involved in the confrontation at the cemetery. He remained at his car, and only approached once his girlfriend was finished, noted Assistant District Attorney Dan Itzen.
“The basic premise of our law is you do not take it into your own hands,” he said. “You simply don’t go out and settle a score.”
And while it might appear courageous for Carlton to confront a drug dealer, the defendant was “hip deep” in drugs himself, Itzen said. After the shooting, police found drugs and drug paraphernalia at Carlton’s home and in shed outside.
Johnson was not charged in connection to the incident. However, he does have a past aggravated assault conviction.