A man who shot a YouTube prankster who followed him around a shopping centre food court has been found not guilty by a US jury.
Alan Colie, 31, was acquitted of aggravated malicious wounding in the shooting of Tanner Cook, 21, who runs the Classified Goons YouTube channel – which has more than 50,000 subscribers.
However, the jury was split on two lesser firearms charges and decided to convict him on one and acquit him on the other.
The shooting on 2 April in Dulles Town Center, west of Washington DC, sparked panic as shoppers fled what they feared was another mass shooting.
His defence attorney, Adam Pouilliard, said during his closing arguments on Thursday that his client felt menaced by Mr Cook, who is 6ft 5ins tall, during the confrontation, which was designed to provoke a reaction and draw viewers to his YouTube channel.
He said Mr Cook “is trying to confuse people to post videos. He’s not worried that he’s scaring people. He keeps doing this”.
Jurors watched a video of the shooting which shows the confrontation between Colie and Mr Cook lasting less than 30 seconds.
It shows Mr Cook approaching Colie, a delivery driver, as he picks up a food order and Mr Cook looms over him while holding a phone about six inches from Colie’s face.
The phone plays the phrase “Hey dip****, quit thinking about my twinkle” several times through a Google Translate app.
Colie says “stop” three times and tries to back away from Mr Cook, who continues to advance.
He then tries to knock the phone away from his face before pulling out a gun and shooting Mr Cook in the lower left of his chest.
There is no pause between the moment he draws the weapon and when he fires the shot.
Colie pleaded not guilty and said he was acting in self-defence.
Prosecutor Eden Homes said the facts do not support a self-defence argument, with the law requiring Colie to reasonably fear he was in imminent danger of bodily harm, and that he use no more force than necessary. She said Mr Cook’s prank was bizarre but not threatening.
“They were playing a silly phrase on a phone,” she said. “How could the defendant have found that he was reasonably in fear of imminent bodily harm?”
Mr Pouilliard said the conviction on the firearms charge is inconsistent with the law given Colie’s acquittal on self-defence grounds and asked the judge to set aside the condition.
A judge will hear arguments on the issue at a hearing next month.