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Just weeks before Deshawn Randall unloaded his gun into George Miller, the two boys had been close friends.

They had met in school, hung out together every week and even recorded rap videos together. But for reasons that remain unclear, they had a falling out and a week of gun violence left one dead and the other behind bars.

On Friday, La Crosse County Circuit Judge Ramonza Gonzalez sentenced Randall, 19, to life in prison but left open the possibility for release after 25 years.

Randall shot the 17-year-old Central High School senior on the morning of Aug. 21 after a confrontation outside 1313-1317 Redfield St. According to witnesses, Randall’s gun jammed, and Miller ran.

Randall went the other way, cleared his gun, then chased Miller into a supply yard off Green Bay Street, where witnesses heard another volley of shots.

Miller died at the scene with 11 gunshot wounds to the chest, stomach, thigh, wrist and arm.

“He assassinated George Miller in broad daylight in front of witnesses,” said District Attorney Tim Gruenke. “Why that had to happen I don’t know …. after the gun jams and they go their separate ways, why he had to chase him down like that, threaten other people and shoot him while he’s lying (on the ground) is another level of evil.”

Miller’s family asked how Randall could have killed a boy who just weeks earlier was one of his best friends.

“He invited you into my home. He fed you, he clothed you,” said Valerie Thomas, adding that her son disobeyed her by continuing to befriend Randall. “All I want to know is, 'Why George?'”

Thomas asked the judge to deny Randall the possibility of parole, the only discretion available in the sentence since he pleaded guilty to first-degree homicide.

“God says I have to forgive you, but right now I can’t,” she said. “You had a choice not to kill George. But you made sure he was dead.”

Miller’s death marked the city’s first homicide in two years but the sixth shooting in just over a week. A father and son, Paul Thomas Sr. and Paul Thomas Jr., were injured in separate shootings in the Washburn neighborhood.

Randall told police that Miller and the younger Thomas had shot at him when he was riding in a friend’s car.

Gruenke said there conflicting statements about the shootings and no evidence to support Randall’s version. He questioned why Randall would continue returning to an area where people were trying to kill him.

“It’s pretty clear Deshawn is in the middle of this,” Gruenke said, adding that he made no effort to get out of the situation or to ask police for help. “Somebody’s doing the shooting, and Deshawn is the one who puts himself in all these areas.”

Randall’s attorney, Michael Covey, said both boys were caught up in a gang schism involving older, “extraordinarily bad people” and that Randall, who he described as “a 19-year-old going on 15” lacked the conflict resolution skills to handle the situation.

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“Knowing that he had been shot at, in the heat of that argument, Deshawn just lost it,” Covey said.

Covey told the court Randall grew up in extreme poverty and dysfunction. His father was in prison for most of his life. His mother used candles to light their home because the electricity was shut off. She lost custody of him as a toddler, when he knocked over one of the candles and set the home on fire.

Debbora Washington said she raised her grandson as best she could.

“I know what he did wrong,” she said. “But my grandson is a good kid.”

When it was his turn to speak, Randall sat silently for more than 20 seconds before conferring with Covey.

“I know sorry won't cut it, but I’m very sorry for what I did,” he eventually told the court. “That day was not who I was, what I did. … I took a good life, and I ruined my own.”

Covey said later his client was scared and ashamed and unable to express himself but wanted to apologize.

Gonzalez decried the culture in cities where police don’t solve crimes and people take justice into their own hands.

“This is not Milwaukee. This is not Chicago,” she said. “Our law enforcement takes these situations seriously, takes the death of every person personally.”

Yet in the week before Miller died, they were stonewalled in trying to solve the shootings. Gonzalez chastised the people who failed to cooperate with police.

“They bear a piece of the responsibility for what happened to George,” Gonzalez said. “It was this culture of 'we can take care of business ourselves. We don’t need you.' How did that work out for you, Deshawn?”

“Not well.”

“Not well,” Gonzalez repeated.

With credit for time served in jail, Randall can petition the court after Aug. 21, 2040, for parole. He would have to convince a judge that he is not a danger to society. That judge could deny his release and extend the time until he could again petition for release.

"My job today is not to exact retribution, because retribution won’t bring George back. My job is to do justice," Gonzalez said. "I think that is justice for today."

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(55) comments

BichonFrise

This is a prime case for the death penalty. He cleared his gun, ran after the victim and shot him 11 times. He should have gotten life without parole or ole sparky

TopCommentor1

No excuse for murder. Unfortunately, even if an individual has the potential to be rehabilitated, it's not going to happen in the US criminal justice system. Prison here teaches inmates the rules of survival among other criminals as well as lessons learning how to commit more crimes from other inmates. Not to mention no criminal has a chance at a job and a fruitful life with the stigma when he/she gets out. It's a viscous cycle.

Mustang Sally

A vicious cycle, indeed. Studies have shown that support from family, friends, and community as well as gainful employment are imperative to reducing the rate of recidivism. There are some opportunities, but they're few and far between. We need to make some major changes.

caretoomuch

Conor Kid: Don't blame Walker. This is NOT inner city Milwaukee. There is plenty for our youth to do in the coulee region. To fish every day and bring home a meal for your family. To mow a lawn or walk a dog. These kids chose to be thugs! There is a library, lots of wilderness and waters, a YMCA, parks and many opportunities for a good life. CHOICES!!!!!!!

Wi Fan

Ah Mach...you are indicating that religion and or the bible played a part in these shootings. My point is that none of those involved are religious much less have any knowledge of the Bible or its contents. I don't care if you are anti religious but don't cast blame where none lies. Only the lawless live like those killing each other do...oh yeah some of our laws are based on the Commandments so religion can't be all bad huh.

Condor Kid

Our society is failing too many of our youths! So many kids like George and Deshawn could have been saved. Free range parenting might be great for turkeys and chickens but it really sucks for human kids. Lack of family support structure and supervision is destroying too many of our kids. Some of them could be good but they never had the chance. Sit up in your five bedroom, four car garage in Wedgewood Valley and rant on here about the horrors of kids like these while you're surrounded by family and friends but you don't have a clue about what it's like to struggle with single parenthood coupled with economic distress and no family support. I make no excuse for this murderer but we should be able to prevent some of this from happening or at least see it coming. Under the reign of Walker, Wisconsin, along with a few other states like Michigan, is becoming a place where it is more and more difficult for inner city kids to become productive, peaceful citizens. What will we do?

CJ

Coming from a guy whose underage daughter is out drinking at 1-2am getting taken home by an ex cop......not sure you carry much weight here to give advice :(

57

Robed our car..no fix to this one

larslives2ski

I have no sympathy for the murderer, yet to suggest he should receive death or life in prison with no chance of parole denies the fact that at 18 years of age his brain, his frontal lobe, and thus his ability for impulse control and higher reasoning will not be fully developed for another seven years or more. Possibility (and only a possibility) of parole in 25 years seems at least somewhat close to a just sentence. Where would any of us be had we suffered the fullest consequences and strictest punishments for the stupid thoughtless things we did between 15 and 30 years in age!

Climatehoax

Would you feel the same if it was your loved one he killed?

Monteee

Why are you denying the fact that the vast majority of 18-year olds do NOT murder other people? Something must be very wrong with their frontal lobes.....

Stupid, thoughtless things........ Your attempt to deny the severity of this punk's viscious crime is pathetic.

Mustang Sally

Lars, I agree with you. Deshawn did a terrible thing, no doubt, but he has a lot of years left in his life to do some good things, too. Everyone is more than the worst thing they've ever done, and our corrections system should be there for correction, rehabilitation, not just a warehouse for society's undesirables.

And yes, I unequivocally would say the same regardless of who the victim was. And I have.

caretoomuch

you can't correct cold blooded murder. I am sorry but you can't!!!!!

caretoomuch

Really! Running someone down and murdering them in cold blood is measured to where would any of us be if we suffered the fullest of consequences and the strictest of punishments. You do realize this 19 year old thug murdered someone who had their entire life ahead of them. I personally would look at his incarcerated behavior and would never have put the 25 year possible for parole. He is not sorry for what he has done and would never had turned himself in if everyone couldn't point the finger at him and say he did it I say him do it. They need to throw the key away and make this an example of what not to do to wreck your life.

pahoehoe

Odd isn't it that mothers or grandmothers always say "he was/is a good kid"
REALLY? He isn't a good kid....he's a murderer!

Mustang Sally

It is my sincere hope that this young man will better himself in prison.

Republicrat

How come no one from Black Lives Matter are in La Crosse protesting the shooting of an unarmed black man? I thought that this was there bread and butter?

Climatehoax

Speaking of BLM, there was a black lawyer interviewed on TV last night. When it was pointed that 90% of black killings are by blacks, he was asked exactly why BLM only shows up at white on black shootings. He stammered for a few seconds then denied that is what BLM does, he said he didn't really know what they protest about. See, that's the problem, you can't fix what you don't acknowledge. And that group is in HUGE denial, or just plain blind and stupid.

Wi Fan

Going to disagree with you Mach. I would bet anything that those involved in the shootings hadn't seen the inside of a church or said a prayer in years, if ever. Whether you are religious or not, the 10 commandments set a pretty good overall path to follow...to include a rule against murder.

Redwall

The guilty is going away for a long time, but "mandatory life sentence" seems to be a misnomer.

Question: Under sentencing guidelines, is this version of "life sentence" (25 years) the least or most aggressive sentence available to the judge in this case?

Machiavelli

This was a preventable crime...remember the shootings the week before when public officials said there was no danger to the public? Wrong! Danger to public!

“It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man.”
― Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

Machiavelli

[whistling][whistling][whistling]Ever actually read a Christian bible cover to cover? It contains some ghastly deeds done dirt cheap by the Christian god.

" Deaths in the Bible. God - 2,270,365 not including the victims of Noah's flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the many plagues, famines, fiery serpents, etc because no specific numbers were given. Satan - 10"~Unknown

Condor Kid

Always sad to see young lives so foolishly wasted!

RJRKim

Look at Mommy.....Oh my poor baby !!!!! Her fault for breeding too !!!!

real life Justice

This a peace of human garbage should be taken out and shot he is an animal, there is no place in society for him or any of his drug dealing friends. If the city police would be more aggressive in dealing with the drug dealers it would help with the rise in crime. For Judge Gonzales its time to retire she needs to give the max sentence to these criminal animals NO parole Life for a Life. City of La Crosse your losing your nice quite city to the MINORITY drug dealing, murdering assaultive population that has moved into your neighborhoods, Sorry to say But the TRUTH hurts. Just being HONEST I'm a former resident and will never live there again.

oldhomey

We all sincerely hope that you did not acquire your education in La Crosse schools, real life, as you obviously did not exactly excel in English. Or perhaps you did attend La Crosse schools but never finished. In any event, we are all quite pleased to learn that you will never live here again.

caretoomuch

That's not fair to assume school wasn't finished. Our schools graduate people who can't spell or count change every spring. No child let behind!

AngryLog

I'm voting Sanders and think this dude should hang. Nothing to do with race. Dudes a cold blooded killer. He knew what he did and told the cops he'd be out the next day.

oldhomey

A lot of Trump and Cruz voters commenting here. I am no expecting much sympathy for this kid, but most of these comments leap way past the boundaries of critique, deep into the territory of racism and unbridled hatred. It's the spirit that Cruz and Trump want to tap into to make America "great" again.

vindicator

What spirit would you exhibit if it was your son gunned down ? Your the one judging this by race. Which would make you a what?

Climatehoax

Let's say it, he's a racist, you can't solve a problem if you don't acknowledge it.

Climatehoax

Since you bring race into it, if you think the criticism is racial, do you think he should get less because he's black? He's a murderer, he's a black murderer and he's getting off a lot easier than his victim, same if he were white.

oldhomey

I am saying, vindicator and Climatehoax, that your comments and others on here go beyond remarking on the stupidity, brutality and tragedy which are all features of of this particular murder, and of rational critiquing of the legal handling of the case, and you all revel in snarling racial hatred that bears no relationship to the discussion at hand. Yes, I am calling you out. You're racist. You've said what you've said, the shoe fits, so wear it.

caretoomuch

the only one pulling the race card is you oldhomey!

vindicator

I guess that makes Bill Clinton a racist too. He told "Black lives matter" the very same thing at a Hillary rally. Quit protecting the thugs oldhomey, your part of the problem. Your the racist.

joebadaxxe1

Well said. Very easy to talk from behind a keyboard. I am in no way defending this kid.

caretoomuch

oldhomey you must be democrat as they are the 1st ones to play the race card outside of the race that is pulling it. If I had a penny for the times I have heard an african american say "its because um black isn't it". No its your behavior!!!!!

Oney Judge

talk about killing two birds with one stone. I think La Crosse residents where saved from future happening with both of them gone.

Lets Be Real

He didn't kill an innocent kid. the other kid was just as guilty but he lost his life. do the same to this kid so the taxpayers don't have to pay for this garbage. Just rid the world of garbage people like this.

union conservative

Hard to believe this happened in La Crosse where we look to attract all the most non productive people we can.

chucker

Wisconsin needs to bring back the Death Penalty !! when you chase a boy down and shoot him 11 times !!

caretoomuch

I concur chucker! At least give them the opportunity to make the right choices or die by the thug life they lead. That goes for any color race or creed.

let it go

He killed a young man intentionally and without thought of whom it would hurt. He should get life with no chance for parole.

Sick of This

So LaCrosse county justice once again. Life should mean life. Period. No parole. 44 is plenty young enough to have the energy left to commit more crimes. We haven't seen the last of him!! Thanks Ramona!!! Once again you have shown yourself incapable of doling out the harsh sentences these scum deserve!!!!

bigdaddyneebs

The headlines use to read. Student drowns in river from being to drunk. Now this person shots this person. Or someone getting busted for a meth house. This city is no better than Milwaukee or racine wi

lutefisk

teen

caretoomuch

NINETEEN and a legal adult!

Mr Anderson

He gunned down another human being, in cold blood. The only appropriate sentence is hanging by the neck until dead.

superman

It's hard to lock someone up and throw away the key, unless of course you chased down an defenseless kid, shot him several times, and left him to die. I'm sure he feels bad about what he did, but I think the courts need to make an example out of him. This kind of behavior can not be tolerated in our community, and they need to send a strong message.

caretoomuch

YES!

LaCrosseTaxPayer

Why should the tax payers spend two or three times more per year to keep this PO$ alive than most people make in a year?
This was not an accident or a mistake it was cold blooded murder and he should fry!!!
His life should mean the same to the tax payers and the courts as his victims’ life meant to him!
If his family or Friends don’t or can’t pay his way in prison he should receive the same thing his victim did and that should apply to all lifers in prison!
Capital punishment eliminates repeat offenders!!
Make jail and prison someplace they NEVER want to go or too go back to!!!
I will repeat myself Capital punishment eliminates repeat offenders!!
The do-gooders that whine about Capital punishment need to pony up with their money and let them support the scum in prison for the rest of their lives if they feel so against Capital punishment so the taxpayers don’t waste their money on supporting scum like this!!!
Until the courts start making people responsible for their actions things will just continue to get worst.

reader0520

I love how they call this punk a "man." There should be absolutely no chance of parole for this kid. When his gun jammed, a greater power was trying to get him to think twice about moving forward - but he continued to chase the victim down and end his life. He's already been given many chances. Too many. Life, no parole.

markeugene

The other charges should not have been dismissed.

nels

I don't mind paying taxes to support our prison system in wis, this is the kind of person they are built for

fish37

40 years in the prison shower.

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