Gonzales teen shot Sunday trying to flee after home invasion, faces 10 criminal counts _lowres

Aaron Neames

LIVINGSTON — In a case that tested the limits of Louisiana's "stand your ground" laws, a Walker man found guilty of attempted manslaughter in the 2015 shooting of a home invader was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison.

Aaron Neames, 27, had been found guilty in the shooting case in May. He was sentenced on Thursday by 21st Judicial District Judge Bob Morrison.

At trial, the prosecution argued Neames went too far in shooting home invader Benjamin Jarreau, 19, of Gonzales, pursuing vigilante retribution after the man was already disarmed and out of the house.

The defense attorney maintained that Neames was justified in shooting the man, who only moments earlier had held three people hostage inside the house with a gun.

In issuing the sentence, Morrison noted Neames did not initiate “the whole fiasco.” But Morrison said he was concerned by Neames’ conduct, which could have endangered others in the trailer park.

“The only thing I find to be of some comfort, if there is any to be had in this case, is that some small child wasn’t killed in the cross fire in the barrage of bullets that were aimed at the initial perpetrator,” Morrison said.

Morrison added that Jarreau has been offered a plea deal to serve three years in prison, and he felt it would be unfair to gives Neames any more time than Jarreau.

Authorities said that on March 1, 2015, Jarreau committed an armed robbery at Neames’ trailer at 26200 Walker South Road.

Jarreau, who was strung out on drugs, drove up from Ascension Parish with a stolen car and gun intending to steal from Neames in order to repay a drug debt.

Neames was not home at the time, but three other people were inside the trailer. Jarreau held the three at rifle-point, terrorizing them further by shooting the gun into a sofa while they waited for Neames to return, according to police reports.

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When Neames walked in the door, Jarreau shot the rifle at the homeowner's feet. But Neames was able to pull the gun from Jarreau. Neames pistol-whipped him in the head and demanded Jarreau leave the house, Livingston Parish Assistant District Attorney Zach Daniels said at trial.

According to Daniels, Jarreau left and got into his car. Neames followed him outside and shot into the car six times, striking Jarreau in the elbow and arm.

Jarreau faces charges of home invasion, false imprisonment with a dangerous weapon and attempted armed robbery.

At trial, Daniels charged that Neames shot at Jarreau, because he was upset the man stole his stuff. Neames attorney, Ed Atebara, contended Jarreau continued to threaten the trailer park and intended to back his car into Neames’ trailer.

In a sentencing memorandum filed June 6, Atebara, argued his client should get the minimum sentence, because he was acting in self-defense.

“Mr. Neames was acting on adrenaline and instinct, not calculated thought, and even so, showed restraint in not simply killing Mr. Jarreau, which if done inside the residence, would have resulted in no trial or accusation from Mr. Neames, or at least none that would stick,” the defense attorney wrote.

He added, “Mr. Neames should not be held to have the training and professional judgment of a police officer or infantryman – he has no formal training, and no prior experience in this kind of encounter.”

Daniels did not offer any comments to the court about the sentence. He did not respond to a phone message seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

At trial, Morrison instructed the jury that use of force or violence can be justified to prevent a forcible offense against a person or others, if the force is reasonable and appears necessary to prevent the offense. In such cases, if a person is in a place he or she has a right to be, the person may stand their ground and meet force with force, he said.

The jury voted 10-2 in favor of convicting Neames of the attempted manslaughter count. They rejected an attempted murder charge also brought by the state.

In February, Neames was arrested for possession of a pound of marijuana. That case remains open.

Follow Caroline Grueskin on Twitter, @cgrueskin.