POLK COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - A Beaumont man originally arrested on a murder charge but later indicted on a lesser charge has pleaded guilty and has agreed to serve probation for the crime.
Samuel Jacobe Gotreaux, 20, entered the plea in District Judge Kaycee Jones court on Wednesday. He pleaded guilty to third-degree deadly conduct and agreed to a punishment of six years probation.
The case stems from the July 23, 2016, shooting death of Brandon Lopez in the Wild County Subdivision.
Polk County deputies and EMS arrived to find Brandon Michael Lopez, 19, with a single gunshot wound. Deputies say Gotreaux and Savannah Hampton said Lopez and Gotreaux got into an argument and Lopez threw a metal object through the back glass of Gotreaux's truck.
Deputies say Gotreaux got out of his truck and got a 20-gauge pump shotgun from the back seat and located it with one round and fired it toward Lopez, hitting him in the right armpit and chest.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office charged Gotreaux with first-degree murder. However, District Attorney William Lee Hon said a grand jury later decided not to indict him for any form of criminal homicide and instead chose to charge him with deadly conduct, alleging that Gotreaux "intentionally or knowingly discharged a firearm at or in the direction of Lopez."
"Although prosecutors are not privy to grand jury deliberations, presumably the grand jury determined that Gotreaux did not intend to kill the victim," Hon stated in an email.
Hon provided more insight into the case.
"Gotreaux and Lopez, who were very good friends, had traveled to Polk County from the Beaumont area to meet a female," Hon said.
Hon said both men had been drinking and Hampton said Lopez had become belligerent and wanted to fight Gotreaux. Hon said Gotreaux and Hampton tried to leave when Lopez got in the bed of the truck and "made an aggressive move in his direction, causing Gotreaux to retrieve and load a shotgun from the truck."
Hon said Gotreaux then pointed the shotgun in Lopez's direction and fired. The shooting happened around 3:22 a.m. and Gotreaux immediately called 911 and was cooperative in the investigation, Hon said.
"With these circumstances in mind, and based upon the deliberations of twelve Polk County citizens who by returning a non-homicide indictment determined that Gotreaux did not intentionally kill his friend; and after extensive discussions with the Lopez family regarding legal and factual aspects of the case, a determination was made that the appropriate sentence for Samuel Gotreaux was a felony probation and felony conviction on his record," Hon said. "This recommendation also took into consideration the very real possibility that a trial jury may have given credence to a likely claim of self-defense or defense of property as mentioned before. It was also important to this office that Gotreaux accept responsibility for his actions which he did by pleading guilty. While I appreciate and understand the Lopez family's frustration over a probated sentence after the tragic loss of their child, ultimately the law, as established by the Texas Legislature; and the facts, as considered by a Polk County Grand Jury, warranted Samuel Gotreaux being given this chance at rehabilitation."