A convicted felon whose mishandling of a firearm while under the influence of drugs led to it discharging and fatally wounding a 75-year-old Hemet woman remains “extremely remorseful” over what happened and is prepared to do his time for the crime, his attorney said Wednesday.
“This was the most unique case I’ve ever seen,” defense attorney Phillip Greenberg told City News Service. “It was the perfect storm of circumstances that caused a really bad situation.”
On Tuesday, Greenberg’s client, 38-year-old John Reza Jowkar of Hemet, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and possession of controlled substances while armed, with a sentence-enhancing gun use allegation, for the October 2020 death of Janice L. Graves.
Under the plea agreement with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, two felony charges were dismissed. Superior Court Judge Timothy Hollenhorst sentenced Jowkar to six years in state prison, per the plea agreement.
“Mr. Jowkar is extremely remorseful about the victim’s death. He is still very upset about the situation and how it all went down,” Greenberg told CNS.
According to court documents, Jowkar was a caregiver for Graves’ son, identified only as a man in his 50s, who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Hemet police Lt. Michael Arellano said that about 1:30 p.m. Oct. 9, 2020, the defendant was cleaning a 9mm semiautomatic handgun in Graves’ garage in the 700 block of Via Linda Drive, and in the process, “the firearm inadvertently discharged.”
“The bullet went through the wall separating the garage from the bedroom of the patient,” Greenberg said. “The victim was in a chair next to her son, and the bullet struck her in her hip. What are the chances? If the trajectory had just been two inches one way or the other, she wouldn’t have been hit.”
According to the attorney, his client’s actions immediately afterward were what made the accidental shooting worse.
“My client was under the influence of a controlled substance, and he panicked,” Greenberg said. “Instead of going to the victim and trying to administer first aid or calling 911, he spent several minutes finding a place to hide the gun, then called the police.”
Greenberg said every second counted for Graves, and the time wasted by Jowkar meant paramedics were delayed in reaching the residence.
“They might have helped her, saved her life,” the attorney said. “That’s why he’s got to do the time (in prison).”
Graves died at Hemet Valley Hospital within an hour of being shot.
Greenberg said a “combination of drugs and not being skilled with firearms” because he’d never used one significantly contributed to the accidental shooting.
It was unclear how long the defendant had worked for the victim and her son.
“My client was very close to the patient and his mom,” Greenberg said. “He felt they were family.”
According to court records, Jowkar’s prior felony offenses were committed in another jurisdiction and were not specified.