Man admits to shooting close friend

Derrick Johnson (Source: Columbus Police Department)
Derrick Johnson (Source: Columbus Police Department)

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  A local man originally charged with murdering his friend now knows his fate in prison.

Twenty-one-year-old  Derrick Johnson was indicted on the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter and pleaded guilty in Muscogee County Superior Court Wednesday.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, 10 of which he'll spend behind bars and the remaining five on probation.

In 2009, Columbus Police found the body of 17-year-old Eric Maxwell in a car on 2nd Avenue. He had been shot and Derrick Johnson, who had been riding in the backseat, later turned himself in to police.

Johnson claimed he had accidentally dropped a gun and it went off, hitting Maxwell, the driver and his close friend, in the back and killing him.

Assistant District Attorney Wesley Lambertus says forensic tests prove that's not what happened. It's the state's theory that the men were planning on doing a drive-by shooting at the Wilson Apartments in retaliation for being shot at before in that area.

Lambertus says Johnson was acting reckless and waving the gun around, psyching himself up for the drive-by when he accidentally pulled the trigger. The projectile of the bullet was in a downward motion, according to prosecutors, supporting this theory.

Lambertus also points out that Tray Thomas was in the passenger seat. Thomas is now charged with murder in the 2010 Labor Day drive-by shooting of 18-year-old Gerald Hatchett in East Highland. He says that supports the state's position that the trio was planning on committing a similar crime on the day Derrick Johnson lost his life.

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