An Anchorage jury today convicted a self-described methamphetamine dealer of first-degree murder and evidence tampering for shooting and killing another dealer in 2010.
Ryan Angelo Malapit Sargento, 29, said he killed John Lee “Dopey” Taylor, 30, in self-defense. Witnesses said it was over a stolen phone.
The jurors deliberated about three hours Monday and announced the guilty verdict Tuesday morning.
In convicting Sargento, the jury rejected his impassioned testimony that he was forced to kill Taylor to protect himself.
“I didn’t know what else to do, I was scared for my life,” Sargento testified Thursday. “I thought, ‘If I don’t keep shooting, he was going to kill me.’ ”
Sargento admitted to emptying the clip of a Hi-Point 9mm pistol at Taylor about 6 a.m. June 2, 2010, near an apartment building in Mountain View. Six of the eight bullets hit Taylor, a medical examiner testified.
One round grazed Taylor’s skin; another pierced his heart.
Witnesses told police they thought Sargento might have stolen Taylor’s cell phone — a source of contacts for potential customers, who the dealers referred to as “knocks.” Sargento said he never had Taylor’s phone.
Sargento said Taylor had pulled a gun on him two days before the fatal shooting, putting the weapon to his back during a confrontation near Boniface Parkway and 24th Avenue.
The day of the killing, Sargento hid in an apartment in a building off Thompson Avenue where people were known to do drugs and record music, he said. He was with a group that smoked methamphetamine that night after delivering fake meth to Chugiak, Sargento said.
Taylor showed up before 6 a.m. An autopsy would later show he had a large amount of methamphetamine in his system.
Taylor pounded on the door and Sargento told everyone inside to not answer. Sargento said he waited 20 or 30 minutes, then left the apartment. He carried the pistol — loaded and with a round in the chamber — in his pocket.
Sargento testified that Taylor confronted him when he emerged from a short alley and that Taylor looked like he was going to pull a gun of his own.
“I took out my gun and I shot him, because I thought he was going to shoot me,” Sargento said.
A man in an apartment adjacent to the parking lot testified that Taylor was on his knees and had his hands up when Sargento fired the final two shots, according to Assistant District Attorney Sharon Marshall.
The number of shots Sargento fired at the unarmed man damaged his self-defense argument, Marshall said in a phone interview today.
“Even if you were to find that the first shot was justified, or the second shot or the third shot, you’d have to find that he was justified for the fourth, fifth, sixth, and then — when (Taylor) is on his knees — the last two shots,” Marshall said.
Sargento’s adult court record extends back to when he was 18 and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor theft charge. Then-Gov. Frank Murkowski pardoned him of the crime six years later. Sargento’smother, a state employee appointed by Murkowski, requested the pardon.
Sargento faces up to 99 years in prison for the first-degree murder conviction. He could serve up to five years for evidence tampering because he tossed his gun after the shooting.