Pair Given Maximum 6-Year Sentences For Shooting At School Bus Stop

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - by Wendy King

Two Chattanooga teens were given six-year prison sentences on Tuesday by Criminal Court Judge Don Poole for a shooting at a bus stop and the ensuing high speed chase.  

Witnesses said Lonta Montrell Burress Jr., 18, and Darius Jerel Gustus, 19, fired shots at several high school students on Dec. 7, 2010, after they got off a school bus. They then tried to evade police as Burress drove 80 miles plus per hour down McCallie Avenue before the chase ended on Willow Street when the stolen truck he was driving rolled over numerous times. The students at the bus stop were not injured.

Burress and Gustus were each sentenced on three counts of aggravated assault and evading arrest. Burress was convicted for theft of property valued over $1,000, while Gustus was also convicted of possession of a deadly weapon and reckless endangerment.

Burress, who is awaiting trial for the July 2011 murder of Darius Townsend, and Gustus sat quietly during the hearing. The teens both had extensive Juvenile Court records along with several probation violations.

Hamilton County Assistant District Attorney Cameron Williams stated during arguments that Burress and Gustus were “dangerous offenders who have little to no regard for human life as they fired in a residential neighborhood as students were departing a school bus.”

Prosecutor Williams also spoke of the high-speed pursuit of the defendants in mid-afternoon traffic and how they narrowly avoided hitting a school bus as police were chasing them.

As for the Class C felony of aggravated assault that ranges from three to six years in prison, the prosecutor said it was insufficient for the circumstances saying that the public needed to be safe from Burress and Gustus because they would continue to “endanger the citizens of Chattanooga.”

Attorneys for Burress and Gustus said the case would be appealed stating that witnesses gave two different versions of events during the July trial adding that there was no evidence that Burress shot with and reloaded his gun while Gustus shot in the air and just wanted “to scare people.”

The defense attorneys have 30 days to appeal the sentences.


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