Local news reports
Diego B. Ortiz Mendez, 30, previously pleaded guilty to a felony count of aggravated assault. This morning, Judge Rick Sommers sentenced Ortiz Mendez to 10 years in prison with four years suspended. He must also make nearly $15,000 in restitution for the victim's medical bills.
After a dispute between two groups of people, Ortiz Mendez fired a single shot from a 9-millimeter handgun that struck Whitney Schaunaman, of Aberdeen, in the back of the neck, said Chris White, chief deputy state's attorney for Brown County. Schaunaman was taken to the hospital and released later in the day. Both Sommers and White said there's no reason to believe Ortiz Mendez was trying to hit Schaunaman with the shot. But the incident was still serious and could have been even worse if the bullet had struck the victim even a centimeter closer to the center of the neck, instead of near the outside of her neck, White said.
"This could have ended up so badly that you could have ended up with life in prison," Sommers told Ortiz Mendez as he tried to convince the defendant that the sentence was not harsh or unfair.
Ortiz Mendez apologized to Schaunaman's family — her father was in the courtroom — and said it was never his intent to hurt anybody. He said he was trying to fire a warning shot to attract the attention of police because he was fearful of his life as the result of the altercation between the two groups.
Men who were with Schaunaman were hassling and bothering Ortiz Mendez while both parties were in the Zoo Bar and outside after the bar closed, said Josh Finer, Ortiz Mendez's attorney. When one of the men ran to his vehicle, Ortiz Mendez became fearful and went to his car and grabbed his gun, Finer said. Shortly thereafter, the shot was fired.