GOSHEN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A man who killed two young women and shot five other people at a Halloween party was sentenced Thursday.
As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, the killer shuffled into court, facing a room full of his victims’ advocates.
Nija Johnson’s mass shooting at a Newburgh Halloween party remains inexplicable, and his apology was distinctly unsatisfying for many, Young reported.
“I apologize,” he said.
The 18-year-old received two sentences of 20 years to life to be served consecutively — a minimum of four decades behind bars.
The prosecutor said an unreleased cellphone video of the shooting sealed the case.
“He took out the weapon, there was nobody else with a weapon that was out. He advanced on unarmed people who were panicked and held the weapon out, appeared to be aiming it, and repeatedly fired it multiple times at multiple people,” Assistant Orange County District Attorney Christopher Borek said. “And only stopped when he was forcibly disarmed by someone.”
The five surviving victims still struggle with their injuries. One is permanently paralyzed.
Most tears were shed, though, for the dead, Tabitha Cruz and Omani Free. Amazingly, their two mothers were able to talk of forgiveness.
“Well I do forgive him, but he deserves to be in prison,” Rhonda Free said.
“It’s too late, but I accept it,” Jeanette Drake said.
When asked whether Drake forgives him, she replied, “not yet.”
The judge held a thick pile of victim impact letters in his hand as he sent Johnson away. With so much pain left behind, he said justice is imperfect and insufficient.
The impact letters will follow Johnson to prison to be read by his parole board when they first consider his release in the year 2057.
In his confession, Johnson said he was aiming for someone with whom he had previously fought, CBS2 reported.