BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A plea agreement was reached Tuesday in connection with a dispute that turned deadly in northwest Bakersfield.
Kevan Brown, 41, pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Jack Owen Early Jr., who was staying at his neighbor’s home, according to court records. A charge of first-degree murder was dismissed.
Brown will be sentenced to 21 years in prison at his sentencing in January, prosecutors said.
Brown’s attorney, Jared Thompson of Humphrey & Thompson, said the murder charge was filed with a gun enhancement that would have resulted in his client facing 50 years to life if found guilty.
“Basically the rest of his life in prison was staring him in the face,” Thompson said of the decision to take the plea bargain.
An argument could be made for self-defense, Thompson said, adding Early was the aggressor. But he feared some jurors could see Brown’s actions as unreasonable.
According to a probable cause declaration, the events leading to the Dec. 13 shooting began with Early and Brown shouting at each other over a fence separating backyards on Cranbrook Avenue, north of Norris Road and west of Fruitvale Avenue.
The men approached each other and Early, 57, broke a fence board as the two tried to fight, a witness said according to the declaration. They separated and Early went inside.
Soon after, Early came back out to grab a beer he’d left behind. Brown said he had something to show him, the witness told police.
If it was a gun, Early told Brown, he’d better be prepared to use it, according to the narrative provided by the witness.
Early then threw a beer bottle at the fence and Brown pulled a gun and opened fire, the witness told police. The witness said he ran inside to call 911 and heard more gunshots.
He looked outside and saw Brown walking away from Early’s body, the witness said. Early was pronounced dead at the scene.