TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) --- After deliberating for more than five hours, jurors convicted Zachary Buck-Schrag of murder in the shooting death of a 37-year-old man in 2018.
Attorneys wrapped up four days of testimony late Friday afternoon, and jurors chose to stay late at the courthouse to consider a verdict.
Buck-Schrag learned his fate around 8:30 p.m. He was convicted of 1st degree murder and an alternative count of reckless 2nd degree murder, along with criminal discharge of a firearm, aggravated assault, and criminal possession of a firearm by a felon.
A sentencing date is not yet set. DA Mike Kagay says Buck-Schrag faces a presumptive life sentence, with a minimum 25 years before he's eligible for parole.
Buck-Schrag, 22, took the stand earlier in the day Friday to argue he was only defending himself when he shot and killed Travis Larsen on January 14, 2018. Buck-Schrag told jurors he and a friend were being chased on icy roads, through several turns, when the SUV they were in slid and stopped in the ice and snow.
The pursuing Chevrolet Monte Carlo then slammed into the back of his car. Buck-Schrag said that’s when he opened fire with a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol, killing Larsen and injuring Bruce Reynolds, who was also in the Monte Carlo. Buck-Schrag told jurors he didn't intend to kill anyone when he fired shots at Larsen's car, "but to stop the attack, to stop the threat."
"I never would have fired the shots if (the Monte Carlo) hadn't rammed me," Buck-Schrag said.
He contended he was acting in self defense of himself and Carissa Ann Dean Williams, a long-time friend, when he fired his pistol. He didn't think he had a choice but to fire, adding that if he didn't shoot, he and Williams would been "hurt badly or killed."
His lawyer closed by telling jurors his client wasn't going to be trapped and killed by a predator like the rabbit on "Wild Kingdom," a documentary focusing on wildlife and nature. Deputy District Attorney Brett Watson, however, countered that Buck-Schrag was the rabbit "with the Glock 40," referring to the 40-caliber semiautomatic pistol he was carrying.
The confrontation started at a Kwik Shop, S.W. 21st and Randolph, where one of two men in the Monte Carlo brandished a firearm magazine at the SUV and yelled something, Buck-Schrag said.
As the SUV left the convenience store, the Monte Carlo was "waiting for us" at an exit from an adjacent series of stores, and as the SUV passed, "they pulled out and almost hit us,"
Buck-Schrag said. When the SUV switched lanes, the Monte Carlo switched lanes, and when Williams turned south onto Washburn at 21st, the Monte Carlo did so, he said.
"We were trying to lose them," Buck-Schrag said. Williams soon turned west on S.W. 22nd Park, and at the intersection with Mulvane, the SUV became stuck on ice and snow, its tires spinning, Buck-Schrag testified.
"It smashed directly into us," Buck-Schrag said, adding it intentionally rammed the SUV. He said he tried to "stop the attack" by leaning out the SUV to fire four or five shots at the Monte Carlo.
The Monte Carlo was struck by five bullets, including one that passed through the windshield, striking Larsen in the head killing him. The Monte Carlo also was struck with three bullets in the right front door and one in the door frame.
Buck-Schrag later disassembled the pistol and pitched it at a Hardee's fast-food restaurant at S.W. 6th and MacVicar.
Police found four .40-caliber shell casings in the street near the Monte Carlo. A police witness testified that no firearms nor ammunition magazines were found in the Monte Carlo.