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INDEPENDENCE, MO (KCTV) -
The trial for Eric Bratton, the man accused of shooting a couple at an Independence mall last year, has ended with the young man being found guilty on four counts.
About 12:20 p.m., closing arguments wrapped up. It took the jury almost four hours to reach their verdict.
The prosecutor said the shooting started as a fight between Bratton, 25, and another man. Bratton is accused of making a lewd sexual comment about then-17-year-old Rochelle Moore's derriere when she and her boyfriend were entering the Independence Center Mall on Jan. 14, 2012. Moore's boyfriend, Dillion Yates, said this started a verbal and physical fight.
When the fight was broken up, the couple continued walking through the mall, and surveillance video shows Bratton following behind them as they continue to exchange heated words.
Bratton then pulled out a .45-caliber handgun and shot the couple, wounding both.
In court on Tuesday, the defense argued that Bratton feared for his own life and that he fired the weapon in self-defense, thinking that Yates might have a weapon on him.
"The gun came out when he didn't know what was going to happen. He was scared," defense attorney Tom Porto said in his arguments.
But in their closing arguments on Wednesday, prosecutors said Bratton can't claim self-defense when he created the commotion. They said the two victims had walked away as Bratton followed them around the mall, saying he wanted to finish this.
Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said Bratton could have walked away from the confrontation any time, but his bruised ego wouldn't let him.
"You are not allowed to use protection of self-defense when you are the one that create the chaos," she said.
Cellphone video shot by scared patrons at the mall shows the people in panic as gunshots echoed through the mall. The video and dramatic surveillance video from inside the mall that showed customers running for their lives as Bratton fired his gun at Yates and Moore was shown to the jury several times during closing arguments.
The prosecutor told the jury Bratton created the pandemonium and should be held accountable for his actions and for wounding the young couple.
"We won't tolerate this behavior. You need to send a message to him that you cannot open fire in a crowded mall. Enough is enough," Baker said Wednesday.
Bratton was being held on a $500,000 bond. He originally faced one count of first-degree aggravated criminal assault, one count of second-degree aggravated criminal assault and two counts of armed criminal action. The first-degree assault count was downgraded to second-degree aggravated criminal assault.
Rather than life in prison, he could now face up to 21 years. There's no word at this time when he will be sentenced.
Moore and Yates filed a lawsuit against Independence Center Mall, saying it didn't provide adequate security. Click on the related link to read the lawsuit.
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