CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Pennsylvania man sentenced to more than 13 years in prison on Wednesday told a federal judge he was “grateful” that bullets fired by deputy U.S. Marshals caught him instead of other bystanders in a crowded shopping center in Cleveland.
DeWayne Taylor, 33, told U.S. District Judge Pamela Barker that after viewing video of the Dec. 11, 2020 incident at the Walmart parking lot on Steelyard Commons, he was upset that he forced the marshals to shooting at him, especially because he was a grandmother and her grandchild was so close to the shooting.
“For the people at Walmart, I apologize from the bottom of my heart,” Taylor said. “Stray bullets could have gone anywhere. I’m grateful I was the one who got hit.”
Barker sentenced him to 13 years and six months in prison, near the upper limit of federal sentencing guidelines and well over the 10 years Taylor’s defense attorney was asking for.
She noted that the shooting happened around noon, two weeks before Christmas, and that the parking lot, which is about a 10-minute drive from the Cleveland federal courthouse, was particularly busy with holiday shoppers.
Taylor previously pleaded guilty to assaulting or resisting a federal law enforcement officer, carrying a gun during a violent crime, and possessing a gun as a felon.
He apologized to members of the US Marshals Service’s Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force for making “the cruel decision to shoot me,” saying he did so because he “wanted to harm himself.”
Defense attorney Christian Grostic said during the hearing and in court filings that Taylor was having suicidal thoughts at the time and pointed his gun at officers so they would shoot him, a prospect Taylor now thinks is “terrifying,” Grostic wrote.
Grostic pleaded for a 10-year sentence in part because Taylor grew up in difficult circumstances. His mother raised him alone and suffered from drug addiction. Her partners physically and sexually abused him as a child, Grostic wrote in court documents.
Taylor started smoking marijuana at age 12 and became addicted to PCP at 19. He was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Grostic also argued that Taylor immediately took responsibility, telling authorities during an interview hours later at the hospital that the officers who shot him “did everything by the book.”
The officers who shot Taylor — Cleveland Police Officer Keith Haven, Euclid Officer Casey Kleckner and Deputy U.S. Marshal Josh Lowe — hit Taylor in the left shoulder.
The Marshalls had been searching for Taylor for months. In June 2020, an arrest warrant was issued for him for violating his suspended sentence stemming from a 2013 burglary conviction.
Marshals found him in New Mexico on December 4, 2020. Authorities said Taylor pointed a gun at officers in the incident, but Grostic said Wednesday that Taylor denied it.
A week later, officers tracked him to Steelyard Commons. Taylor noticed officers as he walked out of the store, ducked into his SUV, and grabbed a .22-caliber Kal-Tech handgun loaded with 27 bullets. He pointed the gun at the officers, who fired multiple shots at him.
Assistant US Attorney Kelly Galvin said during the hearing that Taylor’s behavior was more consistent with someone fleeing police and willing to do whatever it takes to avoid arrest than someone suffering from a mental illness.
“Mr. Taylor posed an incredible inherent danger to not only officials but the public on a very busy day at Walmart,” Galvin said.