The man who shot three people last month outside a Lawrence nightclub pleaded guilty Thursday, and then apologized to his victims.
"I got into a fight. I left the club mad : . People got hurt. I apologize for that," Carlos Jackson told Douglas County District Court Judge Paula Martin.
Jackson, 26, of Topeka, will be sentenced April 11 on three counts of reckless aggravated battery under a plea agreement reached with the Douglas County District Attorney's office. He faces a possible sentence of 10 years in prison. The initial charges were more serious - three counts of intentional aggravated battery. But if convicted on those charges, it would have meant an additional 20 months in prison.
Jackson wanted to take responsibility for his actions and decided nothing would be gained by having the case go to trial, his attorney, Jason Billam, said after the hearing.
District Attorney Charles Branson said he was satisfied any time someone can be convicted on three felonies. He noted that if the case had gone to trial, a jury would have had the option of finding Jackson guilty of reckless aggravated battery.
"I think we've had a pretty good day in the courtroom," Branson said.
Prosecutors had a video of the shooting that took place at 3 a.m. on Feb. 10 outside Last Call, 729 N.H. It shows a man coming out of the club, pulling out a cell phone and then firing a handgun. Branson wouldn't provide the source of the video.
Jackson said he didn't intend to shoot anyone.
Wounded in the shooting were two club bouncers and a 15-year-old boy who had been in the club. The bouncers, Brooks Weber, 28, of Overland Park, and Bryan Canady, 22, of Kansas City, Mo., were in the courtroom watching the hearing. Both said after the hearing that they would like to see Jackson serve more than 10 years, but added that they were OK with the outcome.
"He'll miss the next decade, and I'll be having a good time," Weber said.
"He did the smart thing," Canady said of the plea.
Jackson said he'd been at another Lawrence club, Club Axis, 821 Iowa, and had been smoking marijuana and taking Ecstasy before he got to Last Call.
Lawrence police publicly identified Jackson as the suspect three days after the shooting. He was arrested Feb. 15 at the home of relatives in Hopkinsville, Ky. Since returning to Douglas County, he has remained in jail on $450,000 bond. After he pleaded guilty, Martin revoked the bond.
Last Call, a hip-hop music venue, had been a source of controversy for the past few years. Police kept a special watch on it at closing time and sometimes seized weapons they found in patrons' cars parked nearby. Two years ago, shots were fired inside the club, but no one was hurt.
The violence associated with Last Call led the city of Lawrence to revoke its liquor license earlier this year in an attempt to shut down the club. Owner Dennis Steffes, however, kept the club open by operating under a "bring your own alcohol" rule. After the February shooting, however, Steffes voluntarily closed the club. He now faces eviction proceedings.
But the injured bouncers - Canady and Weber - said they would readily return to work for Steffes if he reopened the club. They said the city's perception of the club was wrong.
"It's a good place. I had a lot of fun," Weber said. "Shootings, stabbings and fights happen at all bars."
Weber said he was injured when a ricochet bullet hit his left foot. He walks on crutches. He said he worked at Last Call for four years and had been a bouncer for seven years.
"I've been in about 200 fights; I've been stabbed and I've been shot at, but this is the first time I've been shot," he said.
Canady was hit in the back shoulder by a bullet. The tip of the bullet is still lodged under the skin of his right upper arm.
Two women still face charges stemming from the shooting. Sonda Washington, 33, and Sherise Spears, 20, both of Topeka, are charged with providing assistance to Jackson following the shooting. They waived their preliminary hearings Thursday, and trials will be scheduled.