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Published: Friday, October 10, 2014 @ 1:04 PM
Updated: Friday, October 10, 2014 @ 7:04 PM
DAYTON — Two security guards who killed a man two years ago as he attempted to leave an apartment complex agreed to plea deals Friday afternoon that will guarantee they spend at least three years in prison.
Justin Wissinger, 26, and Christopher Tarbert, 34, were working as private security guards for Ranger Security at the Summit Square Apartment complex the night of March 12, 2012 when they encountered Dante Price in the parking lot. The 25-year-old father was trespassed from the property, and the guards ordered Price from his car at gunpoint. When he did not comply with their orders and attempted to drive away, Tarbert and Wissinger fired 17 rounds into the car, hitting Price three times and killing him.
On Friday, the men each entered guilty pleas to counts of involuntary manslaughter at a hearing in Montgomery County Common Pleas County. They also agreed to plead guilty to an abduction charge. In exchange, the Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office dropped the murder charges the two faced, along with the weapons specifications that would have added an additional mandatory three years to their sentences. The men also waived their right to appeal as part the agreement.
The deal guarantees the two men will face between 3 to 11 years in prison — significantly less than if they'd been convicted of murder. The case was set to go to trial on Oct. 21. If convicted, Tarbert and Wissinger would have faced 15 years to life in prison. The agreement was reached after defense attorneys approached prosecutors. The prosecutor talked with Dayton police and Price's family before agreeing to the deal, officials said.
Price's mother, Saprena Riley, said for two years she prayed for a deal because she knew she wouldn't be able to bare hearing and seeing the details surrounding her son's death in open court.
"If you're not a mother who had (your) child murdered the way I had my child murdered, and what that would look like with that many bullets, to endure them having to show you, nobody would want to see that," she said. "I want to remember him as he was."
Riley and other family members wept as Judge Timothy O'Connell read the charges and accepted Tarbert and Wissinger's pleas. While the time in prison will be less than what they could have faced, Riley said at least she knows her son is guaranteed justice.
"Even though I laid my son to rest two years ago, today I actually laid my son to rest. He can rest. I'm just so grateful to God. He answered my prayers," she said.
At the time Wissinger and Tarbert were arrested, county Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. said they had exceeded their legal authority trying to detain Price, and by using deadly force to try to make him comply. Heck and Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said Price's shooting was not a hate crime. Price was black. The two guards are white.
Ranger Security officials could not be reached for comments Friday, and Tarbert and Wissinger's attorneys reserved comment until sentencing.
The newspaper has reported that police reports show Tarbert had numerous encounters with Price in the six months before Price's death. Both Wissinger and Tarbert were permitted by the state Private Investigator Security Guard Services to carry handguns. Both had the required training.
According to state records, Wissinger had been with Preble County-based Ranger Security for several months prior to the shooting; Tarbert worked for the company off and on for several years.
Nine months before Price's shooting, the state moved to have the license for Ranger Security, owned by Ivan Burke, revoked because of thousands of violations. The company's attorney classified those violations as "clerical." The matter failed because the state did not follow all its procedures.