A 21-YEAR-OLD man who last month cursed at and got into a courtroom brawl with a deputy sheriff tried to get a hold of that deputy's gun in a secure hallway adjacent to the courtroom, a prosecutor said yesterday.
Arkel Garcia was convicted by a jury on Feb. 17 of second-degree murder, robbery and a firearms offense in the Nov. 30, 2013, shooting death of Christian Massey, 21, a special-needs man who graduated from Marple Newtown High School and was known as a "gentle giant." Garcia had shot Massey in an Overbrook alley in an attempt to rob Massey of his $300 Beats by Dre headphones.
After jurors were dismissed and Common Pleas Judge Steven Geroff was about to sentence Garcia to a mandatory term of life in prison without parole, Garcia, who was standing, knocked over his wooden chair behind him.
Deputy Sheriff Sgt. Robert Castelli then placed the chair back upright behind Garcia with a loud thump. Garcia looked back at the deputy, said something and made a snickering sound.
Castelli asked Garcia what he said, and Garcia replied: "Get the f--- out."
Castelli then grabbed Garcia, who then began fighting with the deputy, trying to get free. That prompted police officers sitting in the courtroom gallery to jump in. The prosecutor, defense attorney and other deputy sheriffs in the room also scrambled to help, all trying to control Garcia.
After a moment or two of chaos, in which Garcia was inching his way toward the courtroom gallery, law-enforcement officers were able to push Garcia out of the room into an adjacent hallway for defendants in custody.
There, Garcia allegedly tried to grab Castelli's semiautomatic service weapon.
"Witness statements indicate that there was a struggle for the sheriff's weapon, that Arkel Garcia had his hand on the sheriff's weapon and it was quite a struggle," Assistant District Attorney Brendan O'Malley said yesterday after Garcia was finally sentenced to life in prison in Massey's murder.
Thankfully, law-enforcement officers were able to get Garcia's hand off the gun, O'Malley said.
Garcia now faces an April 14 preliminary hearing on new charges of aggravated assault, disarming a law-enforcement officer and related offenses in connection with the Feb. 17 brawl and the alleged gun-grabbing.
During Garcia's sentencing yesterday in a high-security courtroom, Garcia did not say much, except to answer "yes" and "no" to his attorney, Joshua Scarpello.