BOISE -- A Boise man who shot and killed a father of four during a fight in traffic last fall was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison.
Jacob Wall, 21, will spend at least three years behind bars before he will become eligible for parole. Wall pleaded guilty in July to involuntary manslaughter and a firearms enhancement in the Nov. 6 death of 38-year-old Luis Lara of Boise.
Prosectors say the Nov. 6 confrontation started when Wall gunned his pickup to merge in front of Lara on Five Mile Road, cutting him off. When Wall stopped at a stoplight in front of Lara, Lara got out of his vehicle and walked up to Wall's pickup, yelling at him and swinging punches through the open window.
Wall grabbed a handgun from the center console and fired, shooting Lara in the shoulder. The man fell back, then ran back to his own pickup, asking motorists to call 911.
Prosecutor Jean Fisher said the confrontation could have ended there.
"Wall says that he recognizes that the car in front of him has gone, that the light has turned green, and that he had full opportunity to just drive away," she said.
Instead, the defendant got out of his pickup and followed Lara. The men clashed again, and the fight went to the ground.
Lara, who was unarmed, was shot several more times in the struggle. He died from his injuries at the scene.
The victim's widow, Jessie Lara, said Lara's death sent shockwaves through his family.
"He didn't come home, all the kids were wondering, 'where's daddy, where's daddy,'" she said.
She described Lara as a kindhearted family man, who was never too tired after work to cook big meals for her and their children.
"We were supposed to grow old together, this wasn't supposed to happen," she said. "It isn't fair."
Fatal shooting in West Boise
It wasn't the first blow the family had endured: Lara's own father had died months before. The day he was killed, Lara had spent the day with his mother, going through his father's possessions, Fisher said.
Prosecutors pointed to Wall's history of problems on the road, painting the shooting as the culmination of years of reckless, confrontational behavior for which Wall had faced few real consequences.
"What did he think he could do by getting out of the car, carrying his gun looking for a fight and for this confrontation?" Fisher asked. "I think the defendant does present a clear danger to society. I think that he bought that gun, and wanted to use that gun."
Boise Police Detective Josiah Ransom described Wall as "quite angry" during an interview after the shooting, referring to Lara as a "wannabe gangster" and "Canyon County hoodrat." Ransom testified that Wall told him he believed the victim, who he had not met before the shooting, was a member of a gang because he was wearing a beanie-style hat.
Fisher asked the judge to sentence Wall to the 25-year maximum, arguing that a lesser sentence would undercut the seriousness of the crime.
"He knew what he was doing when he shot [Lara,]" she said. "And he sure knew what he was doing when he got out of the truck."
Defense attorney Michael Bartlett argued that Lara, who had marijuana and more than the legal limit of alcohol in his system when he died, bore some responsibility for the conflict.
"Without his aggression that day, without his decision to attack Jake, there would be no crime," he said. "We wouldn't be here."
Bartlett said that it was clear Wall had gone too far in defending himself. But he argued that his client was terrified Lara was returning to his pickup to retrieve his own gun when he decided to get out and follow him.
He asked the judge to retain jurisdiction in the case, allowing Wall to complete programming available in the rider program.
Wall apologized to the victim's family in a statement before the sentence was handed down.
"I'd give anything to be able to go back and make different choices," he said. "To all of you, I'm really, truly sorry for Luis' death."
Judge Richard Greenwood told Wall he had "crossed the line" when he decided that the victim was planning to retrieve his own weapon when he retreated from Wall's truck.
"If you thought he had a weapon in the car, that is the worst reason in the world to get out with your own weapon and pursue him," he said. "The truth of the matter is you could find a way to leave, and you chose not to."
NOTE: The Lara family reached out to KTVB with a statement expressing disappointment in the sentence. The statement by Jessie Lara is included below.
I am writing this statement in regards to the State vs. Wall case that took place today, September 11, 2017. First I’d like to thank Jean Fisher, Shelly, Veronica and everyone who worked hard on my husband’s case. I knew the outcome would never bring my husband back, but it was a slap in the face when I heard the judge rule out his sentence. I was and still am in complete and utter shock.
Words cannot express how disappointed I am in the justice system and how they handled this situation. Knowing that a severe crime like this can and did result in such a light sentence makes me feel that other people may not think twice for taking another person's life. Jacob Wall murdered my husband after having many chances to walk away, yet once again was only given a slap on the hand for his actions.
Being a family of “faith” I feel his family, the Wall family, should have taken more responsibility by being completely honest about Jacob's past. If justice would have been served when Jacob was younger, then maybe the incident with my husband would have never occurred and he would still be here today.
After the initial shock of the sentencing, I thought it through and I strongly believe that justice would have better been served if my husband was not a minority. I will never stop fighting for justice for my husband and our children; he will be forever missed.