LEESBURG, Va. - A jury on Thursday found a delivery driver not guilty in the shooting of a YouTube prankster who followed him around a mall food court earlier this year.
Alan Colie, 31, was acquitted of aggravated malicious wounding in the shooting of Tanner Cook, 21, who runs the "Classified Goons" YouTube channel.
The jury was split though on two lesser firearms counts, and decided to convict him on one and acquit him on the other.
The April 2 shooting at the food court in Dulles Town Center, about 45 minutes west of the nation's capital, set off panic as shoppers fled what they feared to be a mass shooting.
Colie pleaded not guilty and said he was acting in self defense.
The verdict came Thursday after about five hours of deliberation. Three hours in, the jury sent out a note saying it was "divided in terms of whether the defendant acted in self defense."
Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Snow called the jury back into the courtroom around 3:30 p.m. and urged them to continue deliberations, a standard admonition given to juries that indicate they are deadlocked.
The jury then delivered its verdicts at the end of the day.
Colie's defense attorney, Adam Pouilliard, said the conviction on the firearms charge is inconsistent with the law, given Colie's acquittal on self-defense grounds. He asked the judge to set aside the conviction. A judge will hear arguments on the issue at a hearing next month.
Colie, who has been in custody since his April arrest, will remain incarcerated.
Pouilliard said during Thursday's closing arguments that his client felt menaced by the 6-foot-5 (1.95-meter-tall) Cook during the confrontation, which was designed to provoke a reaction and to draw viewers to Cook's YouTube channel.
Cook, Pouilliard said, "is trying to confuse people to post videos. He's not worried that he's scaring people. He keeps doing this."
Jurors saw video of the shooting, which captures the confrontation between Cook and Colie lasting less than 30 seconds. The footage shows Cook approaching Colie as he picks up a food order. Cook looms over Colie while holding a cellphone about 6 inches (15 centimeters) from Colie's face. The phone broadcasts the phrase "Hey dips—, quit thinking about my twinkle" multiple times through a Google Translate app.
In the video, Colie says "stop" three different times and tries to back away from Cook, who continues to advance. Colie tries to knock the phone away from his face before pulling out a gun and shooting Cook in the lower left chest. There is no pause between the moment he draws the weapon and fires the shot.
Prosecutor Eden Holmes said the facts don't support a self-defense argument. The law requires that Colie reasonably fear that he was in imminent danger of bodily harm, and that he use no more force than is necessary. She said Cook's prank was bizarre but not threatening.
"They were playing a silly phrase on a phone," she said. "How could the defendant have found that he was reasonably in fear of imminent bodily harm?"
The charges of aggravated malicious wounding and malicious discharge of a firearm also require the jury to find that Colie acted with malice.
If the jury finds that Colie was responding to a provocation that reasonably arouses fear or anger, then there is no malice under the law.
Colie, who has been jailed since his April arrest, testified in his own defense about the fear that Cook's prank elicited. Pouilliard said during closing arguments that Colie is aware of the dangers that delivery drivers can face as they interact with the public and that he has a license to carry a concealed weapon.
Cook's "Classified Goons" channel, which has more than 50,000 subscribers, is replete with off-putting stunts, like pretending to vomit on Uber drivers and following unsuspecting customers through department stores. At a preliminary hearing, sheriff's deputies testified that they were well aware of Cook and have received calls about previous stunts.
Cook said he continues to make the videos, from which he earns $2,000 to $3,000 a month.
Jeremy Cook, Tanner's father, sent FOX 5 the following statement after the verdict:
"We are all less safe than before as the rule of law should matter in this country - not mob rule.
The mob can jump to conclusions and go after the wrong people. I was told by the Loudoun Country prosecutor on a phone call that even though the facts supported Tanner being the victim here, public opinion wasn’t with him, Because the media painted Tanner as the aggressor and Alan as the victim without even seeing the video of what happened.
This is by definition mob rule and shouldn’t be happening especially in this country. Right after this shooting Saturday night live reported on their weekend update that a YouTuber doing a prank video at a Virginia mall was shot then paused, starred into the camera, and said good … and everyone laughed… so millions of people saw this and just went with it …
My family was immediately targeted and were harassed by people saying Tanner should have been killed … So I guess now the message is its open season on YouTubers even if they don’t touch or talk to you ??
Alan Coolie was living out of his car at the time with a prior dv charge in 2012 involving his dad. On this day he was on a door dash delivery a took a gun out shot to kill Because he was being pranked.
The prank was a phone was being held next to him that said basically "quit looking at my sparkle" and was pretty much acquitted of all chargers today the only thing that might stick was discharging a gun in public charge (he claimed he had to short cause his life was in danger and this was in self defense and they bought it !!)
Was Justice really served here cause this impacts all of us ??
We are living in a time where public opinion that be easily manipulated and turned into a mob is more important than the rule of law … this is the real danger for all of us."
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