An Arizona father who fatally attacked a drunk man who allegedly stumbled into the women’s room at a gas station and harassed his daughter was sentenced to eight years in prison last week.
Judge Kathleen Mead handed down the sentence to Melvin Harris, 41, on Dec. 13, according to court documents obtained by Oxygen.com. Harris pleaded down to manslaughter from second-degree murder, according to local outlet ABC 15.
The fatal beating occurred on Aug. 3, 2018, after Leon Armstrong allegedly tried to get into the locked bathroom stall that Harris’ daughter was using at a QuikTrip convenience store, according to a police incident report. Two of the girl's friends were also in the restroom. The girl later complained to her enraged father and the store’s attendant. The store’s clerk allegedly tried to intervene, warning an irate Harris not to confront Armstrong.
“He needs his ass beat,” Harris told the store employee, according to court documents. “Imma beat his ass.”
Harris allegedly ran after Armstrong and took a swing at him outside. Armstrong, who “went down immediately,” didn’t try to shield himself from the attack, police said. Harris then repeatedly kicked and stomped the man’s head as he lay on the ground.
“The defendant went over to the victim and, in his rage, punched the victim without provocation, kicked him, and stomped on his head, ultimately causing death,” Deputy County Attorney Jane Schneider wrote in a sentencing memorandum obtained by Oxygen.com.
Harris' attack only halted after his daughter screamed at him to stop. Harris then got in his car and drove away, according to court documents. He didn’t call police. By the time authorities found Armstrong, he had a faint pulse. His heart stopped a short time later.
Schneider said Harris was fuming and “snapped” after learning Armstrong was in the women’s bathroom.
“The defendant took matters in his own hands and decided he was going to be judge, jury, and executioner,” Schneider added. He "did not seek help for the victim even though it was evident he was gravely injured.”
But alcohol also reportedly played a role in Armstrong’s death. Armstrong, who was inebriated, had a blood alcohol content of 0.087 when he died. The medical examiner said the beating, coupled with Armstrong’s intoxicated state, was lethal. The cause of death was determined to be alcohol concussive syndrome, officials said.
Prosecutors painted Harris as a career criminal with severe anger issues, who once torched his estranged wife’s car in the midst of a bitter divorce. Harris showed a “pattern of aggression and violent behavior” prior to his fatal encounter with the bathroom lurker, they said.
“Given all of the facts and circumstances of this case, we feel this is a just outcome,” Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel told Oxygen.com in a statement.
Harris, who was charged with arson after setting his wife’s car on fire, was on probation at the time he killed Armstrong. Officials said he’s been arrested 17 times, six of which were for violent crimes.
Zachary Sloman, Harris’ attorney, wasn't immediately available for comment on Tuesday.
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