A York County man who fatally shot a bystander in his search to find stolen drugs was sentenced to 25 years in prison Thursday.
Jerry Roderick Cousar, 43, pleaded guilty in court Thursday to voluntary manslaughter, cocaine trafficking, attempted murder, and two counts of possession of a weapon during a violent crime.
Sixteenth Circuit Deputy Solicitor Willy Thompson said during a court hearing at the Moss Justice Center in York that Cousar killed Angel Carmindo Dominguez Vega, 23, in November 2017.
Cousar and Trenyatta Jondae Massey, 19, each had been charged with murder, cocaine trafficking and other charges in the days after the killing, according to prosecutors and court records.
Massey and Cousar are cousins, Thompson said.
The 25-year sentence was negotiated between prosecutors and Cousar’s lawyer. Cousar could have faced up to life in prison if convicted of murder. Cocaine trafficking carries a minimum of 25 years in prison under South Carolina law.
The incident took place Nov. 3, 2017. Cousar collected the drugs for Massey after the drugs had been delivered in the mail from California, Thompson said. But the drugs were then stolen from Cousar, Thompson said.
Isaac Felipe “Cuba” Asteri, 61, of Homestead, Fla., stole the drugs then called Charlotte police saying his life was threatened, Thompson said.
Massey sent Cousar to track down Asteri, Thompson said. Cousar confronted a group of men who knew Asteri and demanded help, Thompson said. Cousar started shooting.
“Mr. Cousar then shot Vega in the chest and fired several other shots,” Thompson said.
Cousar did not speak in court Thursday except to say he had been on Social Security disability for a decade for mental illness, and to agree that he was guilty of the charges.
Cousar was found competent to enter the plea after he was examined by a psychiatrist, testimony showed.
Cousar’s lawyer, 16th Circuit Deputy Public Defender B.J. Barrowclough, said in court that Cousar has a history of mental illness and schizophrenia, coupled with substance abuse of crack cocaine. When the drugs were stolen, Cousar acted to try and get the drugs back, Barrowclough said.
Barrowclough said the people in California who sent the drugs were dangerous and Cousar feared for his own safety and the safety of family members.
“He had all the stressors from a combination of his mental condition, substance abuse, threats to him and his family, lack of cooperation from others and an inability to retrieve the drugs,” Barrowclough said. “All of that stress led him to pull the trigger.”
Barrowclough said Cousar was not a violent person before the incident.
“There is a good person inside of him,” Barrowclough said.
Asteri, suspected of being in the U.S. illegally, was arrested Tuesday for trafficking more than 3,000 grams of drugs from the incident, according to Thompson and arrest warrants. Asteri is being held at the York County jail under a hold by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. An ICE detainer means a person is being held on suspicion he is a foreign national and is subject to removal from the country, according to ICE.
Charges remain pending against Massey and Asteri. Massey is in S.C. Department of Corrections after 2018 convictions for weapons and drugs, records show.