A 30-year-old Arlington man was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday in the fatal shooting of a teenager who had reached into a wrecked, smoking vehicle to rescue the defendant’s toddler daughter.
Thomas Lester Harper, who testified that he was slipping in and out of consciousness when he shot 18-year-old Clarence “C.J.” Robinson, must spend 30 years in prison before he is eligible for parole, prosecutors said in a news release Tuesday evening.
Jurors deliberated for 45 minutes before returning the sentence, which includes a $10,000 fine.
They convicted Harper on Friday in state District Judge Wayne Salvant’s court.
During the punishment phase this week, prosecutors presented evidence that Harper once pulled a gun on the teenage mother of his baby and the teen’s father, a news release from the Tarrant County district attorney’s office said.
Last week, prosecutors presented evidence that on Dec. 14, 2011, Harper was driving a Chevrolet Tahoe on North Collins Street at an estimated 90 mph when he started hitting other vehicles between Washington Drive and Brown Boulevard. By the time the Tahoe wrecked, it had damaged at least six vehicles. Najee Nasir, a Marine veteran, was killed when Harper’s Tahoe rear-ended his vehicle. That case is pending.
Harper’s twin son and daughter were secured in booster seats in the back seat of the Tahoe. The wrecked vehicle was leaking fluids and smoked as though it might catch fire or explode, according to witnesses. Onlookers rushed to help Harper and the children. Harper, who was trapped in the front seat, testified that he was disoriented and believed he was protecting his daughter from strangers who were trying to take her out of his vehicle.
When Robinson reached into the Tahoe and pulled out Harper’s daughter, Harper said, “This is your bad day,” according to the testimony of Zachary Treible, the man driving the first vehicle that the Tahoe struck.
Then Harper shot Robinson in the head. When he fell, the child fell on him and was not injured. Robinson was pronounced dead at the scene.
Harper was held at gunpoint by law enforcement officials who were in the area until Arlington police officers and Fire Department personnel arrived and freed Harper from the mangled SUV.
Harper denied using marijuana on the day of the wreck, but medical tests showed he was intoxicated from the drug, according to Robert Johnson, a toxicologist with the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office.