MANATEE -- Jamaal Sanders was Dejuan Williams’ track coach at Bayshore High School. He was a friend, too, of Byron Galloway’s family. That’s why Wednesday was particularly hard for him.
More than 75 people packed Courtroom 6A at the Manatee County Judicial Center that day to hear Judge Gilbert Smith Jr. sentence Galloway, 18, for shooting Williams to death Aug. 4, 2009.
Sanders was not in the courtroom.
“I think two promising lives were ruined in the time span of two seconds,” Sanders, also a parent liaison at Bayshore High, said Friday. “A promising guard for the basketball team at Southeast High and a leader with a big beautiful smile at Bayshore High are both gone.”
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Galloway received 40 years for second-degree murder with a firearm, along with a concurrent five years for aggravated assault with a firearm, according to court records.
On the day of the killing, Galloway, then 17, was visiting Williams’ younger sister, who wasn’t allowed to have boys over at her house, according to testimony.
When one of Williams’ friends found Galloway hiding behind a shed in the backyard, Williams, 18, confronted Galloway with a baseball bat.
Galloway apologized at first before pulling out a gun and saying, “Forget this,” according to testimony.
Williams was full of life, Sanders said.
“His nickname was ‘Speedy,’ because he was so fast,” Sanders said of Williams’ prowess as a long jumper and relay runner. “His smile would light up your life if you were down. When I see his sister in school I see his face. They look so much alike.”
Like many, Sanders thinks if Galloway had not possessed a gun that night, tragedy would have been averted.
“I think the lesson to be learned from this for a kid is that two seconds of a bad decision can ruin your life,” Sanders said. “Every decision you make can have a consequence and every time you carry a weapon, it leaves you the option of something bad happening.“
Williams’ mother, Kytiki Washington, showed a photo slide show of her son’s life at the sentencing. Three people spoke about Williams, and a victim advocate read a letter from Williams’ sister.
The two opposing attorneys, including defense attorney Chris Pratt and assistant state attorney Darlene Ragoonanan, both later said the boys they gave voice to in court had promising futures cut short.
“It’s simply a tragic loss,” Ragoonanan said of Williams. “It was my understanding he wanted to be a dentist.”
“The sentencing hearing revealed that Dejuan Williams and Byron Galloway were fine young men that the community could have been proud of,” Pratt said.
Galloway was a brilliant starting point guard on the varsity basketball team as a freshman, a remarkable achievement, Pratt said.
He was also the starting quarterback on the JV football team. His basketball coach testified at the sentencing that, as a freshman, Galloway was the leader of the team despite there being seniors on the squad.
Pratt also pointed out that Galloway had a role model in his life, his father, Bobby Joe Galloway.
“Byron’s dad, B.J., has been really, really strong,” Pratt said. “They’ve all been strong.”
Although Galloway seemed unmoved during the sentencing, Pratt saw a moment of emotion after Galloway was led out of the courtroom after sentencing.
“When you leave the courtroom after sentencing, there is a jail on the other side of the door,” Pratt said. “I went in and talked to him for about 10 minutes. He was emotional then.
“I think Byron was resigned that it was going to be 40 to 45 years. He was hoping against hope that it wouldn’t be.”
Galloway will remain in the Manatee County jail until a restitution hearing takes place in which Galloway is likely to be held financially responsible for Williams’ funeral and other family expenses, Pratt said.