A Germantown man convicted of wounding five people in a chaotic shooting inside a crowded Montgomery County Walmart in 2018 will spend decades in prison.
Keenan Jones, 31, was sentenced to 25 to 62 years during a hearing Thursday in Norristown. A jury convicted Jones of attempted murder, multiple counts of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest, and firearm offenses after just one hour of deliberation during his October trial.
“I don’t believe Mr. Jones went to Walmart to terrorize. … It’s clear he was suffering from his own demons,” said Montgomery County Judge Risa Vetri Ferman in announcing the sentence. “But the evidence shows that his actions inside were intentional.”
Jones was arrested hours after the August 2018 shooting, which unfolded as he was waiting with his sister at a checkout line at the store in Cheltenham Township. As Jones stood there, he became agitated and paranoid and grabbed his sister’s gun from her waistband. He pointed it at the shopper behind him, shooting the man in his calf.
Despite days of testimony from both Jones’ family and investigators, the motive of the shooting remains unclear — including to Jones himself, as he told Ferman on Thursday.
“I didn’t have no intention to harm or hurt nobody,” he said, apologizing to the victims. “I have no explanation as to why this happened or how this happened, only what doctors tell me about the chemical imbalance, PTSD, and psychosis in my brain.”
Jones’ attorney, Vanessa L. Bellino, said he was in the midst of a psychotic break, pushed to insanity by the recent stress of his girlfriend’s troubled pregnancy. That exacerbated his past untreated traumas, she said, which included witnessing his father’s violent murder, and the murder of a childhood friend months before the Walmart incident.
“Mental health is something that is a stigma in our society as a whole, particularly in their neighborhood,” Bellino said, referring to the section of Germantown where Jones and his family live. “It’s not manly to get treatment, and not manly to ask for help.”
She urged Ferman to consider the support of Jones’ friends and family, some of whom spoke on his behalf Thursday and presented the judge with a 157-signature petition asking for leniency.
Prosecutors, led by Assistant District Attorney Tonya Lupinacci, called Bellino’s insanity defense “concocted."
“No matter who you are, how you live, where you grow up, you don’t have the right to walk into a store in our community and fire a reign of terror onto innocent people,” Lupinacci said.
Video from inside the store showed that after the initial gunfire, Jones ran toward the exit, firing indiscriminately as customers and employees scattered in panic.
He shot a customer-service manager, Akiya Dash, striking her four times. She testified at Jones’ trial that she believed he targeted her because he feared she would identify him to police.
Outside the store, Jones sped away in his sister’s car, stopping only to discard her gun. Jones was not allowed to possess a gun due to prior felony convictions.
Minutes later, he crashed into a Philadelphia police vehicle, parked nearby on an unrelated matter.
Those officers confronted Jones, who goaded them into a prolonged fight that left them with injuries sidelining them from active duty.