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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Victim forgives teen sentenced to 8 years in prison for South Hill robbery, shooting that left bullet lodged in his spine

UPDATED: Fri., March 25, 2022

Steven LeBlanc, left, struggles to stand in court to give a victim impact statement on Friday at the sentencing hearing for Logan Birrell, far right, in Spokane.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Steven LeBlanc, left, struggles to stand in court to give a victim impact statement on Friday at the sentencing hearing for Logan Birrell, far right, in Spokane. (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

An 18-year-old man will spend eight years in prison for shooting Steven LeBlanc, who was paralyzed by the bullet wound and now walks with a limp, after demanding his car and money in 2020 on Spokane’s South Hill.

Logan Birrell, who was 16 at the time of the shooting, pleaded guilty Friday to first-degree robbery, second-degree assault with a firearm enhancement and conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery.

“I’m truly sorry for all I’ve done,” Birrell said.

Birrell and Tobias Hamm, now 19, met up with Leblanc, now 20, on the afternoon of Oct. 18, 2020, in the area of 2700 E. 55th Ave., according to court documents. LeBlanc had sold Hamm a vape pen and agreed to sell the two teens a Puff Bar.

Hamm was sentenced in December to seven years in prison for conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery, first-degree robbery, criminal mischief and money laundering.

When Leblanc arrived, Hamm approached the car with Birrell. The three teens talked for about 30 seconds when Birrell pulled out a black semi-automatic pistol and pointed it at LeBlanc, the victim told police.

Birrell demanded LeBlanc’s vehicle and money, but LeBlanc thought the gun was fake, so he told Birrell he would have to shoot him then slapped at the pistol, documents said. Birrell asked LeBlanc if he wanted to be shot, to which LeBlanc responded by driving away, court records said.

As he pulled away, LeBlanc told police he heard a gunshot then felt pain in his upper body and lost feeling in his legs, according to documents. With his foot stuck on the gas pedal, LeBlanc was accelerating west on 55th, documents said. LeBlanc lifted his leg off the gas pedal and used the emergency brake to stop the car at 55th Avenue and Crestline Street, where he called 9-1-1 before witnesses offered help.

LeBlanc was taken to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. Police arrested Birrell and Hamm at the Birrell family home that night.

Police found two 9 mm cartridge cases at the scene of the shooting.

LeBlanc was paralyzed by the bullet, which struck his upper body and is lodged in his spine. He said doctors told him he would never walk again, but he limped to the courtroom podium Friday.

“I’m so grateful I’m up here walking today,” he said.

He said he worked construction and loved playing football after work.

“All those dreams are over,” he said.

Birrell said he was “more than remorseful” for his actions and wished he could take them back.

“I have changed drastically,” he said.

Judge Rachelle Anderson said Birrell’s words seemed to indicate he understood the incident caused trauma to not only LeBlanc, but the families involved and even those who heard the gunshot.

“This situation is a very traumatic series of events,” she said.

LeBlanc said he lives with lots of pain, and that it is harder to find jobs and do daily tasks. Still, he and his father, Steve LeBlanc, forgave Birrell Friday.

Steve LeBlanc said his son, who had his head down crying during part of his father’s statement Friday, “lost his life” that day.

“I’m not sure how he turned this bullet into something good,” said Steve LeBlanc, adding that his son has had a great heart about the situation.

Birrell’s parents said they hope Steven LeBlanc continues to recover.

“We think about you and talk about you and we pray for you,” Tiffany Birrell, Logan Birrell’s mother, said.

“Please know that Logan didn’t mean this to happen to you,” she added, crying at times.

Kevin Birrell, Logan Birrell’s father, said his son has taken responsibility and is willing to accept his punishment. Both parents asked Anderson not to impose a lengthy prison sentence.

“Chapter One is now closed,” Kevin Birrell told The Spokesman-Review after Friday’s proceedings. “Chapter Two now starts, and this is about Logan’s rehabilitation. This is about Steven’s rehabilitation, and we hope and pray for the very best, and if we can be of assistance in this, we will be.”

Birrell’s family, including his parents, hugged Steven LeBlanc after the sentencing.

Steven LeBlanc said after the hearing that the eight-year sentence is what he hoped Logan Birrell received, but he also felt remorseful watching Logan Birrell go to prison and looking at the supportive Birrell family.

“It’s made me a better person, it’s showed me how to be humble, how to be grateful, how to see how little gains can be big,” Steven Leblanc said of the incident.

The prosecution and defense recommended the eight-year prison sentence. The eight years is made up of five years for first-degree robbery and three years for the firearm enhancement on the second-degree assault charge.

Anderson also sentenced Logan Birrell to 20 months for second-degree assault and 51 months for conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery, both of which will run concurrent with the other counts.

The sentencing for each count was within the standard sentencing ranges. The most serious offense, first-degree robbery, carries a maximum penalty of life in prison in Washington.

Logan Birrell will serve 18 months of community custody when he is released from prison.

He and Hamm will pay Steven LeBlanc a combined $15,000 in restitution.

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