Teen gets 40 years prison sentence for killing Indian American

Trayvon Malik Wilhite, a 19-year-old teenager in Chesterfield County, Va., was sentenced to 40 years in prison on November 15 for his role in the attempted robbery and fatal shooting of convenience store owner Harshad Patel.

Chesterfield Circuit Court Judge David E. Johnson brushed aside defense arguments that the teen deserved some leniency because of his troubled upbringing – he was abandoned by his mother at age 8. The judge focused instead on the “senseless and brutal murder” of convenience store owner Harshad Patel, 55, who was fatally shot dead on January 11 as he prepared to close for the night, reported Virginia Post-Dispatch.

The judge said Wilhite intentionally pointed a gun at Patel, a father of two, and fired as the Indian American store owner ducked for cover, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch report.

“He shouldn’t have to take cover in his own place of business,” the judge said, according to the Times-Dispatch report, adding that Wilhite mistakenly believed Patel — who was unarmed — was reaching for a gun and blamed the victim for crouching behind the counter to protect himself. Johnson said Wilhite could then have left the store but instead made a premeditated decision to break the law.

Johnson ultimately ruled that Wilhite, who was arrested in January along with Thomas Jennings, III and a 14-year-old boy, later learned to be Wilhite’s younger brother Tyquise, be sentenced to a total of 73 years in prison with 33 suspended for the killing and attempted robbery of Patel.

After the arrest, Wilhite confessed he was the lone shooter in the crime, which was captured on surveillance video.

The video shows Jennings entering the Marketplace #21 convenience store first, followed by Trayvon Wilhite with a pistol in hand. The single shot taken went through Patel’s right arm and through his chest, fracturing a rib and penetrating the upper lobe of his lung before slicing a major artery that supplies blood to the right arm, the report said. Patel was found by a customer who arrived later to buy lottery tickets.

Chesterfield prosecutor Ken Chitty told the court that investigators found no weapon behind the counter or any guns at all in Patel’s store, the Marketplace #21 at 6811 Walmsley Blvd.

At the conclusion of the 90-minute hearing, Johnson sentenced Wilhite to a total of 73 years in prison with 33 suspended in the killing and attempted robbery of Patel, a native of India whom the judge described as a beloved family man and respected business owner. His death shocked and angered many of the victim’s regular customers who lived near his store.

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