An El Paso County jury on Monday acquitted a Colorado Springs man of second-degree murder for fatally shooting a man at an illegal street racing event on the city's eastern side, days after a judge tossed first-degree murder charges against him.
Tony Ray Lawson, 51, was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the December 2018 quadruple shooting that killed 28-year-old Brandon Coffin and wounded three others.
"Justice was served today," said Nick Rogers, one of Lawson's public defenders. "Tony Lawson was in an incredibly difficult position, and he has been through the wringer ever since. But, he was justified in his actions because the safety of his son and himself was completely compromised, and he acted to save them both."
Lawson, who pleaded not guilty to all counts, argued that he fired in self-defense, shortly after he and his son arrived to watch a street race, along with dozens of others, along Geiger Court, an industrial strip long known to police as a haven for unsanctioned street racing. Lawson said he was forced to shoot after four to five men pushed and punched him, while also assaulting his son.
Police said a red mark on his face supported his story of being punched.
Prosecutors said Lawson fired "indiscriminately" into a crowd and exaggerated the danger, calling it a case of "shooting at a shoving and pushing match."
After three days of deliberations, a jury rejected the charge, along with several others including attempted second-degree manslaughter, attempted second-degree murder and assault charges.
"We regret the decision. However, we respect the decision of the jury," a spokesman for the Fourth Judicial District Attorney's Office said in an email.
Lawson's acquittal comes days after a judge dismissed first-degree murder charges against him, agreeing with his attorneys that prosecutors failed to provide ample evidence to support the charges. Instead, he faced the top charge of second-degree murder.