York shooter acquitted of murder gets no extra prison time

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Police investigate a fatal shooting in the 200 block of West Maple Street Friday, April 14, 2017. Bill Kalina photo

A York City man who was acquitted of murder and manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Collin McGlen Smith Jr. will spend no additional time in prison for his crime.

Dion Beard Jr., 29, was sentenced Monday, Jan. 28, to a year minus a day to two years minus two days in York County Prison by presiding Common Pleas Judge Gregory M. Snyder for Beard's conviction on a single count of reckless endangerment.

The judge noted it was the maximum sentence he could hand down under state law, significantly higher than the six- or seven-month minimum sentence that was the state's sentencing guideline range.

Beard has already served his minimum prison sentence and will spend the balance of his sentence being supervised by York County probation officers.

He spent nearly 19 months in prison while awaiting trial before being released after his Nov. 16 acquittal on both murder and manslaughter charges.

"CJ" Smith's mother, Lavern Chin, sobbed uncontrollably in court on Monday as she addressed both the judge and Beard.

"He got away with murder, your honor," Chin told Snyder. "I don't think (the shooting) was self-defense, but what can I do?"

Dion Beard

'It hurts': Chin said she constantly replays her son's shooting in her head, has trouble sleeping and can't concentrate at work.

"Your honor, it hurts," she said. "I miss my son dearly. ... I miss everything about him. He was a good kid."

Chin said she felt "glued" to her seat during trial because she was unable to defend her son as the defense painted him as the aggressor in the situation.

"Why did you fire so many shots?" she asked Beard. "Why didn't you stop?"

After maxing out Beard, Snyder said that while guilt is a question for jurors, punishment is his domain. And he said he wanted Beard to be supervised by probation officers for as long as possible.

The trial: Jurors took about 5½ hours on Nov. 16 to acquit Beard of all charges except reckless endangerment, a second-degree misdemeanor. Beard has no prior criminal record.

Homicide victim Collin McGlen Smith Jr.

Beard took the witness stand in his own defense at trial, telling jurors he had been avoiding confrontations with — and threats made by — Smith for years before he fatally shot Smith in self-defense.

Beard, who has a young son with a woman who previously dated Smith, testified he had avoided five years' worth of confrontations with Smith by walking away. He told jurors he even moved to New York state to avoid Smith.

During his closing argument, defense attorney Brian Perry hit hard on Smith's alleged reputation for violence and stressed the 22-year-old York City man's 2016 conviction for illegally possessing a firearm. The jury didn't hear that the charge Smith pleaded guilty to was being a convicted felon in illegal possession of a firearm.

Community leaders who testified as character witnesses for Beard included York City Councilwoman Judy Ritter-Dickson and two York pastors.

Beard legally owned the handgun he used to fire at Smith 12 times on April 14, 2017, near the corner of West Maple and Manor streets in the city, and he had a permit to carry concealed weapons, officials said.

Police investigate a fatal shooting in the 200 block of West Maple Street Friday, April 14, 2017. Bill Kalina photo

Multiple wounds: Smith had multiple gunshot wounds to his head and neck and two gunshot wounds to his back.

Chief deputy prosecutor Chuck Murphy argued at trial that evidence shows Beard didn't kill Smith in self-defense.

Beard fled the scene, ditched his gun and hid out for several days, testimony showed. Murphy argued those are the actions of someone displaying consciousness of guilt.

According to trial testimony, Beard walked from his aunt's West Maple Street home to the corner store at Maple and Manor to buy milk for his 1-year-old son. After leaving the store, Beard encountered Smith hanging out nearby and fatally shot him.

Beard told jurors that Smith had been threatening to hurt and kill him for years and that things had escalated. He said Smith followed him to three different areas of the city that day.

Beard testified he pulled his handgun and fired after he saw Smith reach for a gun in his waistband.

Police didn't find a gun in Smith's possession. One of Beard's uncles testified he saw someone rifling through the homicide victim's pockets before fleeing the scene.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.