By most accounts, Agyei McDaniel and Patrick Nicholas II were close friends.
Related by marriage, they often hung out together. Some people described them as brothers.
So the folks who knew them were hurt and confused last year when McDaniel, 39, was arrested and charged for shooting Nicholas to death at a Tacoma storage facility.
“Nobody really understands what happened that day,” defense attorney Helen Whitener said Thursday as loved ones of both men gathered in a Pierce County courtroom.
Tears were shed on both sides as Superior Court Judge Vicki Hogan gave McDaniel the high end of the sentencing range for his second-degree murder conviction: 26 years, two months in prison.
Hogan, in handing down the sentence, called Nicholas’ death and aftermath the “senseless devastation of an entire family unit.”
The shooting occurred Dec. 4, 2012, at the Public Storage facility in the 1200 block of South Sprague Avenue.
According to court documents, the two men, who both rented units at the facility, got into an argument about some goods Nicholas, 40, had stored in McDaniel’s unit. At one point, McDaniel pulled out a gun and opened fire. Nicholas was hit once each in the head and shoulder. He later died.
McDaniel initially fled the scene, disposed of the gun he used and changed his appearance, but he surrendered to authorities later that day.
He claimed self-defense, telling police and later jurors he knew Nicholas to carry a gun and thought his friend might have been on drugs that day and would turn violent. Police found a gun in Nicholas’ pocket, but jurors rejected McDaniel’s claims of self-defense.
On Thursday, deputy prosecutor Kevin McCann recommended the high end of the sentencing range, saying McDaniel had shown little remorse for his actions and has “a pattern and a history of violence.” McDaniel was convicted of third-degree assault 16 years ago following another shooting, McCann said.
The victim’s son, Patrick Nicholas III, told Hogan the loss of his father had devastated his family.
“It’s hurt us real bad. This guy was our Superman. We can’t have him no more,” Nicholas III said.
McDaniel’s son, daughter and a deacon at his church then addressed Hogan, saying McDaniel was a good man who’d made a poor choice.
“I know both sides are hurt. I know the choice wasn’t the best,” said A.J. McDaniel, the defendant’s son. “But I want the court to know I’m here for my father. He’s a good person.”
Defense attorney Helen Whitener recommended a low-end sentence of 17 years, 10 months.
“He may have been wrong about the danger he perceived that day,” Whitener said as McDaniel wiped tears from his eyes. “He has been remorseful since Day 1. My client lost his best friend. He has lost his extended family.”
Hogan then gave McDaniel a chance to speak.
He turned to the gallery and apologized to both families.
“I never wanted this to happen with me and anybody, let alone with someone I cared so much about,” McDaniel said. “I truly am sorry for my actions.”
Hogan then took her turn.
“It probably was a surprise what happened, but it did happen,” the judge said. “A man lost his life.”