CHRISTIANSBURG — Daniel Andrew Crimmins was acquitted Monday of last year’s shooting of Christian Javier Santana — but the same jury convicted the Elliston man of unlawfully discharging a firearm in an occupied dwelling.
Santana, 37, of Roanoke was shot the day after Thanksgiving while on a holiday visit with Crimmins, whom he’d known for years.
The jury recommended a 12-month jail sentence on the firearms charge. Crimmins had faced a maximum of five years in prison on that charge. Judge Robert Turk scheduled a sentencing hearing for Oct. 16. Turk reduced Crimmins’ bond to $2,500.
Monday’s testimony in Montgomery County Circuit Court described Santana’s long history of mental illness and erratic behavior. He was prone to sudden rages but Crimmins seemed to have an ability to talk him down, witnesses said.
Crimmins testified that on Nov. 24, Santana wouldn’t be calmed.
“He informed me he was talking to a statue of a horse ... He spoke to it and took a breath and a dark shadow went up his nose. And he was Legion,” Crimmins said, explaining that Santana believed there was a demon in him.
Crimmins routinely carried a pistol in a holster on his belt. He said he turned to walk away from Santana and felt a tug on the holster. Cross-examined by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Woltz, Crimmins admitted that he could not say for sure if Santana had reached for his gun or if his own shirt had caught the holster.
But Crimmins said he drew the Glock handgun and pointed it at Santana.
“I was just trying to scare him into reality,” Crimmins said.
Crimmins and a neighbor who was present testified that Santana said “I’ll show you” and leaned toward Crimmins, who was physically smaller than him.
Crimmins’ attorney, Courtney Roberts of Blacksburg, presented medical records about an operation Crimmins had on his spine. Doctors had said that if he were shoved or hit, he risked paralysis or death, Crimmins said.
When Santana leaned across his coffee table toward him, Crimmins flinched and the pistol went off, he testified. An assistant medical examiner testified that the single bullet Crimmins fired broke two of Santana’s ribs, went through his heart, liver, stomach, lower intestine, and lodged against his pelvis. Santana died from blood loss, the assistant medical examiner said.
Crimmins began his trial charged with second-degree murder. After evidence was presented — and after Roberts argued Crimmins was only acting in self-defense — Turk agreed with Roberts that the evidence did not show the malice that was needed for a murder charge.
Turk threw out the murder charge and said the facts fit a charge of involuntary manslaughter at most.
Attorneys and witnesses repeatedly noted the tragedy of the case — Crimmins and Santana considered each other family, because Santana had a relationship, and a son, with the daughter of Crimmins’ longtime girlfriend. After the daughter died, the extended family had worked together to best care for the boy around Santana’s episodes.