A 26-year-old Chattanooga man has been given a 20-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in connection with a killing outside a Dalton, Ga., pub.
Devon Rapheal Wheeler, of 1004 Sheridan Ave, also entered a guilty plea on Friday before Superior Court Judge Scott Minter to aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Per a negotiated plea agreement, Wheeler received 20 years to serve in prison on the manslaughter charge followed by 30 years probation on the remaining charges.
Wheeler was represented by Micah Gates of the Conasauga Public Defender’s Office. The case was investigated by Detective Aaron Simpson of the Dalton Police Department.
The crimes related to events which occurred on April 25, 2021 at The Oyster Pub & Grill at the Outlet Mall in Dalton. An incident or misunderstanding inside the establishment led to Wheeler and others, including the victim of the aggravated assault, Andy Johnson, existing the business and going into the parking lot.
Outside, Wheeler struck Johnson, knocking him down and rendering him, at best, semi-conscious. Wheeler struck Johnson again in the face while Johnson was being assisted by others and was completely unable to defend himself.
During this time, Johnson’s cousin, Rashad Goldston, went to his vehicle and drove around in an apparent attempt to assist Johnson and remove him from the situation. As he drove up next to a large group of people, including Wheeler and others, and right after Johnson had been struck for the second time, the evidence suggests that Goldston brandished a firearm and may have pointed it at Wheeler and others. In response, Wheeler produced a firearm of his own at which point Goldston attempted to drive away. Wheeler pursued and fired multiple shots towards the back of Goldston’s vehicle. One of those rounds entered Goldston’s back resulting in his death.
Goldston wrecked his vehicle in the parking lot and was pronounced dead on the scene. Goldston’s firearm was recovered from the vehicle. Wheeler left the scene and was arrested two days later in Marietta. His firearm was never recovered.
Voluntary Manslaughter is a lesser included offense to the crime of murder when the killing would otherwise fit the definition of murder, but where the defendant acted “solely as the result of a sudden, violent, and irresistible passion resulting for serious provocation sufficient to excite such passion in a reasonable person.”
District Attorney Bert Poston said, "It is believed that Goldston’s use of his firearm was intended to be in defense of Johnson and that Goldston hoped that the crowd would scatter and that he could get his cousin into his vehicle and away from the situation. Generally, the lawful use of force in defense of another will not be sufficient provocation to change murder to voluntary manslaughter. However, under all of the facts and circumstances of the case, a jury could have and likely would have found otherwise. While Wheeler was clearly the primary aggressor, and neither his assault on Johnson nor his shooting of Goldston were justified, Goldston’s actions did escalate the confrontation leading to his own death."
Wheeler had been scheduled for trial the week of Oct.
4. His prior felony convictions included a 2003 conviction for cocaine possession and a 2016 conviction for theft, both in Hamilton County, Tn.