U.S. News

Gunman in 2012 mass shooting at Alabama bar gets 30 years

(Reuters) - An Alabama man was sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to opening fire in a Tuscaloosa bar during a night-long crime spree in 2012 in which he wounded 17 people, prosecutors said on Monday.

Nathan Van Wilkins, 44, is seen in a handout photo released by the Tuscaloosa Police Department on July 17, 2012. REUTERS/Tuscaloosa Police Department/Handout

Nathan Van Wilkins, 47, shot up the Copper Top bar using what witnesses described as an assault rifle, Tuscaloosa County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Cross said.

Wilkins’ sentence, including credit for more than two years’ time served, was handed down after he agreed to a plea deal on Friday, Cross said.

“We are very satisfied,” said Cross, who added that Wilkins was due to stand trial on Monday. “It’s always difficult to put witnesses through a trial. Him accepting responsibility spares them that.”

The incident began on the evening of July 16, 2012, after Wilkins, fired three months earlier from his job at an oilfield services company, was kicked out of his house after arguing with his girlfriend.

After setting a former supervisor’s company truck on fire, he shot and wounded a man in front of a house, then went to the Copper Top bar, where he opened fire, wounding 16 people inside, Cross said.

Early the next morning, Wilkins set fire to the headquarters of his former employer, Capstone Oilfield Services, before surrendering to police, Cross said.

Wilkins pleaded guilty to five counts of attempted murder, 10 counts of second-degree assault and one count of arson, with 52 other charges dropped as part of a deal with prosecutors.

Had he stood trial, he faced a maximum life sentence, which is treated by Alabama’s parole board as 30 years, Cross said. He will be eligible for parole after 15 years, the prosecutor added.

Wilkins’ attorney, Joseph Van Heest, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky in New Orleans; Editing by Letitia Stein and Peter Cooney