Circuit Judge John Fishel II sentenced Walton Henry Butler to 28 years in prison Thursday for shooting a man to death in Port St. Joe.
Butler, 61, was convicted Nov. 21 of second degree murder with a firearm for the death of Everett Andreas Gant, 32. Gant was alive and sitting in a chair outside Butler's home when police arrived. He was bleeding from a bullet wound to his head, but was able to walk with assistance to an ambulance. He died later, however, from brain swelling caused by the .22 caliber bullet fired by Butler.
While police and paramedics were assisting Gant, Butler was inside his house finishing his dinner and, when arrested, asked what was the problem, "I just shot a (racial slur)." He claimed at trial that he shot Gant in self defense.
Assistant State Attorney Bob Sombathy, however, produced witnesses who said Butler shot Gant the moment the door was opened and no words, threats or warnings were exchanged between the two men. Gant, who was black, had gone to Butler's house to confront him about racial epithets he had used around a black child earlier in the day. Sombathy argued that Butler, who is white, had his gun ready when Gant arrived and shot him on the doorstep "like a dog." Sombathy told Fishel that Gant knew of Butler's "racist beliefs," but had intended to win him over with kindness.
Sombathy asked for the maximum sentence for Butler of life in prison. Fishel ordered that Butler serve the 28 years as a minimum mandatory, meaning he will not be eligible for gain time through the Department of Corrections.
Information provided by the State Attorney's Office