The driver who prosecutors say laughed as he ran over and killed a 17-year-old Anoka County boy during a deal over a small amount of marijuana has been sentenced to more than 13 years in prison.
Loren J. Gafner, 20, of St. Francis, pleaded guilty in September to second-degree unintentional murder while committing a felony, a charge that carries with it a recommended sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison.
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop criminal vehicular manslaughter charges and not seek a sentence longer than 15 years.
Anoka County Judge Thomas Fitzpatrick on Thursday sentenced Gafner to 162 months in prison for the death of Tristan Robinson and gave Gafner credit for 382 days already served.
“Such a young life lost is a tragedy,” said Paul Young, criminal division chief of the Anoka County Attorney’s Office. “While no sentence changes the events and outcomes of that day, this prosecution and Judge Fitzpatrick’s sentence demonstrates the severe consequences for engaging in such nonsensical, high-risk behavior.”
Gafner, along with two teenagers — Jaden S. Meadows, who was 16 at the time, and Daveion Maddox, who was 17 — planned to steal about $100 worth of marijuana from Robinson in November 2017, prosecutors said.
When Meadows grabbed the marijuana without paying, Robinson chased him to a sedan. There Maddox pointed a handgun at Robinson, who grabbed a door handle and was subsequently dragged by the car as Gafner backed out of the driveway and drove off.
Meadows told police that he heard “multiple thumps and believed [Robinson] went under both the front and back wheels,” according to the charges. Meadows looked back and saw Robinson in the street “in a fetal position, not moving,” the charges read.
Gafner and Maddox “were laughing about this,” the complaint continued, and then “threatened to kill [Meadows] if he told anyone what happened.” Meadows, accompanied by his mother and brother, went to the Sheriff’s Office to turn himself in the next night.
Meadows, who cooperated with police, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and spent 245 days in custody. He was sentenced to 10 years of probation and given a stay of imposition, which means his felony conviction will be converted to a misdemeanor if he completes his probation without issue.
Maddox has been charged as an adult and faces one count of second-degree murder while committing a felony.