Niles youth gets probation in connection to deadly Arbor Trails shooting

Published 3:15 pm Friday, August 11, 2023

CASSOPOLIS — A Niles youth connected to the 2022 killing of a fellow Niles teen was sentenced to probation and given the chance to keep the charge off his record in Cass County Circuit Court Friday.

A  17-year-old Niles youth pleaded to unlawful driving away of an automobile and was sentenced to two years probation under the Holmes Youthful Training Act, credit for 361 days already served and $698 in fines and costs. He will be on tether until Nov. 1.

The incident occurred May 11, 2022 when the teen took a Chevrolet Silverado from a location on Riverside Drive near Rotary Park in Dowagiac. The vehicle was next seen at the Arbor Trails apartment complex May 12 in Niles where a person jumped out and shot and killed 14-year-old Gavin Blankenship there.

A condition of the teen’s probation is to cooperate fully and testify truthfully in all criminal cases involving co-defendants including the one in Berrien County against the person allegedly who fired the shots that killed the Niles teen. He can keep the charge off his record if he is successful on probation.

“You need to realize you’re a young man,” Cass County Circuit Judge Mark Herman said. “You’re at the point in life if you hang around with people like them, you will spend the rest of your life in an orange jumpsuit. That’s how you will end up if you don’t change.”

“One thing that is concerning to the court is what you said when asked to give your description of what happened and how you felt to see someone shot in the face,” the judge added. “You said you didn’t think it affected you at all. You said you didn’t know the kid and didn’t think it was the shooter’s intent at all.”

“I don’t understand that at all,” Judge Herman continued. “At any age, it should affect you to see someone shot in the face. If you truly believe that, your family should know to address that in the future. If you tell me it doesn’t affect you, that tells me it will happen again in the future … To make a comment like that at age 17, to me is unbelievable.”

“You either start changing now or you will be going down the wrong path and spend a lot of time in jail,” he said. “You’ve spent the last 361 days in jail, that’s a long time in a young life. I hope you learned from it or you will have a long, long life ahead of you behind bars.”