A Chattanooga man was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in connection with a killing that took place at the Oyster Pub bar in Dalton, Georgia, earlier this year.
Devon Raphael Wheeler, 26, entered a guilty plea Friday before Superior Court Judge Scott Minter to the crimes of voluntary manslaughter, 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 was sentenced to 20 years 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 Det. Aaron Simpson of the Dalton Police Department.
In April, Wheeler was arrested after a shooting in the parking lot of the Oyster Pub bar at 933 Market St. in Dalton that resulted in the death of 28-year-old Rashad Goldston.
The shooting occurred April 25. Investigators said they believe a misunderstanding inside the bar led Wheeler and others, including the victim of the aggravated assault, Andy Johnson, to walk outside.
Once outside, Wheeler struck Johnson and knocked him down, rendering him "semi-conscious," according to District Attorney Bert Poston's office. The fight continued, and Goldston, Johnson's cousin, attempted to intervene and get Johnson into his vehicle. During the attempt, evidence suggests Goldston brandished a firearm and may have pointed it at Wheeler and others.
Wheeler produced a firearm of his own in response, at which point Goldston attempted to drive away. Wheeler pursued and fired multiple shots toward the back of the vehicle.
Goldston, who was from Cleveland, Tennessee, was hit in the back by one of the bullets. He tried to drive away but crashed in the parking lot. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Wheeler fled and was arrested two days later in Marietta, Georgia.
"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 from serious provocation sufficient to excite such passion in a reasonable person,'" Poston said in a news release.
"It is believed Goldston's use of his firearm was intended to be in defense of Mr. 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, Tennessee.
Contact Kelcey Caulder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.