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Manslaughter conviction nets 13-year sentence

FRIDAY, DEC. 11, 2009, 9:56 P.M.

A Spokane man will spend 13 years in prison for killing a man in a dispute that began with a beer can tossed from a car window.

Allan L. Turnipseed, 52, claimed self-defense in the June 14, 2007, shooting death of Joshua A. Smith, 24. A jury convicted him of first-degree manslaughter last month.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza sentenced Turnipseed on Friday to 13 1/2 years in prison, which includes five extra years because a weapon was used.

Turnipseed shot Smith twice as Smith was in his car near Eighth Avenue and Ferrall Street. The second bullet was fired into his back.

The location of the fatal shot, coupled with Turnipseed’s admission that he’d smoked marijuana before the deadly confrontation, factored into Cozza’s sentence, the harshest allowed.

“Marijuana makes people stupid. It makes people do stupid things,” Cozza said.

Turnipseed has been in Spokane County Jail since the jury verdict on Nov. 13. A jury couldn’t reach a verdict during his first trial on a second-degree murder charge in April.

On June 13, 2007, a passenger in Smith’s Mazda 626 tossed a beer can into a trash-filled trailer across the street from Turnipseed’s Freya Street home, igniting a profanity-laced exchange between Turnipseed and Smith, police say.

The next day, Turnipseed used his car to block Smith from turning eastbound onto Eighth Avenue from Ferrall Street, according to court testimony; he told police that, sensing trouble, he wanted to stop Smith from driving past his home.

Smith got out of his car and grabbed a tire iron from his car as Turnipseed pulled out his pistol and said Smith was under “citizen’s arrest.” Smith put away the tire iron and got in his car. Turnipseed, who said he feared Smith was trying to run him over, fired two shots.

Smith, who served in the Army National Guard and worked construction, is survived by two daughters, Alexis, 6, and Brooklyn, 4. His family said he told Turnipseed he needed to pick the girls up from day care when he was trying to drive away.

“He saw those car seats in the car,” said Smith’s mother, Linda LeQuin, who described Turnipseed as a “neighborhood vigilante.”

“There was no reason for him to shoot that gun,” she said. “None.”

Turnipseed apologized to Smith’s family in court.

“I never wanted this to happen. I never intended this to happen,” he said. “I don’t want you to carry the burden of hating me forever.”

Turnipseed’s family described him as a loving family man who plays guitar with his grandchildren, one of whom sobbed outside the courtroom after the sentencing.

“Allan is a good man who loves his family,” his daughter-in-law told Cozza.

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