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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Man gets 20 years for killing 21-year-old at Hillyard McDonald’s parking lot

Defendant Christian J. Robinson stands with his defense team at his trial in the Spokane County Courthouse on Oct. 26 for the shooting of Christian Salazar at the Hillyard McDonald’s restaurant in 2020.  (JESSE TINSLEY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The man who shot and killed 21-year-old Christian Salazar in 2020 at a Hillyard McDonald’s parking lot will spend 20 years in prison.

A jury found Christian Robinson, who will turn 30 in August, guilty of second-degree murder last month. The first trial was declared a mistrial after the jury could not reach a verdict.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Harold Clarke III on Friday sentenced Robinson, who wore a yellow Spokane County Jail shirt and pants, to 15 years, plus five years for a firearm enhancement.

Robinson shot Salazar in the head in the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 2020, outside the McDonald’s on North Market Street, according to court documents. Robinson and two friends went to a downtown Spokane bar earlier that night and met three women and hung out with them. One of the women took a cellphone from a table at the bar.

Robinson tracked the device through a phone tracking application on one of his friend’s phones to the fast food restaurant. He then got out of his truck and approached a Toyota Corolla where Salazar and two of the women from the bar were. Robinson demanded his phone and moments later fired a round, striking Salazar, who was in the driver’s seat.

Robinson told the court Friday his only intention was to save his friend, who was on Salazar’s side of the car and who Robinson said was in danger.

“I didn’t intend for any of this to happen,” Robinson said.

Family members of the slain Salazar told the court Friday the 21-year-old will never have the opportunity to get married, have children or follow his dreams.

Salazar’s death caused a painful ripple effect through the family, they said.

His father said he now lives in a “dark and empty world.” His mother said Robinson not only took Salazar’s life, but his family and friends’ lives.

“My son died alone and afraid, without me,” she said.

The courtroom was nearly packed with loved ones of Salazar and Robinson. Several of Salazar’s supporters held up photos of Salazar when his mother started to deliver her statement to Clarke.

Mariesha Seyler, one of the women in the Corolla with Salazar, said she will never again hear Salazar’s “silly laugh” or see his smile.

“Things will just never be the same,” she said.

Dale Nagy, Spokane County deputy prosecutor, asked for the high end of the 183- to 280-month sentencing range, while Robinson’s attorney, Joe Kuhlman, asked for the low end.

Kuhlman said Robinson made a “fatal error” that was “senseless and careless,” but like Robinson said, he did not want to kill Salazar.

Clarke said the term “senseless act” is often used, but it was appropriate in this case.

“I hope that everyone here at some point in their lives finds peace – some peace,” Clarke said.

Robinson will also serve three years of community custody, or probation, when he is released from prison.

Prior to sentencing, Clarke denied Kuhlman’s motion to dismiss because the attorney claimed Robinson’s case “was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” the jury’s few-hour deliberation was not enough time to reach a verdict and the state’s witness testimony contradicted each other. Kuhlman asked for a new trial.

“Three hours is not enough,” Kuhlman said of the jury deliberation.

Nagy said jury deliberations can last anywhere from 20 minutes to several days, so there was no basis to support an argument that the jury rushed to a conclusion. He also said there was more than sufficient evidence to establish every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Clarke ruled the four hours, including a one-hour working lunch, to deliberate was plenty of time to discuss the case and vote. He said there was conflicting information from witnesses, but the overall testimony was clear. Ultimately, he supported the verdict “without question.”