ST. LOUIS (AP) - A man accused of shooting the financial aid director of a downtown St. Louis business college was found guilty Wednesday of first-degree assault and armed criminal action by a city jury.
The jury found Sean Johnson guilty, one day after he testified - against his attorney's wishes - that he was responsible for the shooting. He had initially pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree assault, armed criminal action and possession of a defaced firearm.
The shooting happened Jan. 15, 2013, prompting a lockdown at Stevens Institute of Business & Arts. The jury acquitted him of the firearms charge.
Johnson told the jury that he was upset because his student loans were running out and he was a few credits short of graduating.
"I didn't intend to kill anybody ... I didn't even look at him when I shot him," Johnson said. After the shooting, he said, he realized what he had done.
"I said, "Oh man. I shot Greg,'" he recalled thinking. Financial aid director Greg Elsenrath survived the attack.
"Sean came into the doorway and said, "You'll never do this to me again,' and he pulled the trigger and shot me," Elsenrath told a St. Louis Circuit Court jury.
Soon after Elsenrath was shot, he heard a second shot. Johnson had accidentally shot himself in the abdomen with his 9 mm pistol. Police found him lying in a stairwell. No one else was hurt.
Assistant Circuit Attorney Martin Minnegrode told the jury the case was straightforward: "Sean Johnson shot a man over a couple hundred bucks because he was angry."
Johnson's attorney, Eric Barnhart, did not give an opening statement. Barnhart had suggested soon after the shooting that his client had mental health issues, telling a reporter that Johnson "was a productive member of society when he was taking his medication, and struggled when he didn't."
But Barnhart was not allowed to raise that defense in court. Johnson testified that he had stopped his medication before the shooting and was getting increasingly anxious over not graduating and other smaller annoyances.
"I was in a deranged state of mind," he said.