A man was sentenced Monday to more than five years in prison on a weapons conviction in connection with the drive-by shooting death of his girlfriend's 2-year-old son.
Melvonte Peterson, 26, pleaded guilty in March to illegally possessing a gun the day Le'Vonte King Jason Jones, was killed in north Minneapolis' Jordan neighborhood. As a felon, Peterson is prohibited from carrying guns.
The death created outrage in a part of the city already ravaged by gun violence.
Peterson was driving with Le'Vonte and his 15-month-old daughter last July when a driver pulled up next to him and opened fire, prosecutors said. One of the shots killed Le'Vonte. Another injured his sister. Peterson returned fire before driving to North Memorial Medical Center.
Prosecutors charged Peterson with murder, manslaughter and neglect, but a judge threw out the murder charges in January, saying that holding him responsible for Le'Vonte's death "defies common sense."
Peterson is scheduled for release after serving a little more than three years. He was also ordered to pay restitution to a hardware store whose window was shattered by one of his shots. Peterson, credited with serving 270 days, will be transferred to the state correctional facility in St. Cloud as early as the end of this week, his attorney told family members after Monday's hearing.
Peterson didn't show any emotion as he walked into the courtroom wearing an oversized orange jumpsuit, his hair braided neatly.
When the judge asked him whether he had anything to say before she sentenced him, Peterson paused and then said, "No."
Some family members sitting in the first two rows of the courtroom shouted their support for him, as a pair of deputies led Peterson out of the courtroom.
Afterward, his girlfriend and Le'Vonte's mother, LaShae Jones, said the sentence had left her feeling "depressed."
She questioned why another man believed to have been involved in the shooting, but who has never been charged, was free, despite both Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty both saying that they know who did it.
That man, also a felon, was recently arrested on suspicion of gun possession. That case is pending.
"It confuses me and it just has me at a point that's like, 'What is wrong with the system?'" she said.
No one has been charged with Le'Vonte's killing.