A state appeals court panel has upheld a Long Beach BMW driver’s conviction for a road-rage shooting that killed a man and wounded the victim’s girlfriend.
The defendant gunned down his victims after following the pair from a drive-thru burger restaurant in which the killer’s BMW was bumped by the victims’ Toyota Corolla.
In a ruling released late Tuesday, the three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that the trial court had erred by failing to instruct jurors in Joseph Jeremy Bronson’s trial about voluntary manslaughter based on the heat of passion.
Bronson, now 29, was convicted of second-degree murder and attempted murder for the March 7, 2017, shooting in the 200 block of Liberty Court in Long Beach that left 22-year-old Trevor McCrainey dead and his girlfriend injured.
Bronson was sentenced in August 2019 to 72 years to life in state prison.
The appellate court panel noted that the evidence was undisputed that Bronson called the victim “ugly” and then threw a water bottle and cup of soda at McCrainey’s Toyota Corolla after the vehicle bumped into the defendant’s BMW in the drive-thru lane at Louis Burger on Atlantic Avenue in Long Beach.
McCrainey drove up to the drive-thru window, didn’t stop to get his food, followed Bronson’s car and approached the driver’s side of his vehicle while at a red light and told him to get out of the car, the justices noted.
McCrainey made a U-turn and started to drive home after Bronson made a right turn and drove the wrong way on a one-way street, then spotted the BMW again and followed it into an alley, where Bronson stopped his car in the middle of the alley and calmly approached McCrainey’s vehicle with a gun, according to the ruling.
“When defendant reached the open driver’s side window, he fired four shots at McCrainey, including an execution-style shot to the back of McCrainey’s head,” the justices noted.
The victim’s girlfriend was shot in the chest and the leg, and Bronson drove away after his gun ran out of bullets before fleeing, according to the ruling.
The panel noted that Bronson drove down an isolated alley where he confronted McCrainey after parking in such a manner that the victim could not escape, with those actions demonstrating that the “defendant had a plan to trap McCrainey and confront him, not that defendant acted in the heat of passion.”
Bronson’s trial attorney argued that McCrainey was the aggressor in the chase and that Bronson fired a weapon in self-defense, but prosecutors insisted Bronson was the one who elevated the situation.
Bronson was arrested nearly a month after the shooting.
Jurors — who were instructed on voluntary manslaughter under an imperfect self-defense theory — acquitted him of the more serious charge of first-degree murder.