By Jeff Lehr
A 21-year-old Joplin man has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for shooting another man multiple times in a dispute that erupted over a drag-racing challenge.
Nathan R. Spencer pleaded guilty Friday to Class A and Class B felony counts of first-degree assault and to armed criminal action in a plea deal with the Newton County prosecutor’s office.
Spencer shot Andrew Yaple in the arm, side and back of his head with a .22-caliber, semiautomatic handgun on March 3, 2010, near 41st Street and Joplin Avenue. Yaple, who was 22 years old at the time and 24 today, survived the shooting but still suffers from a related seizure disorder and nerve damage to his arm.
Joplin police say Spencer and Yaple met in the parking lot of May’s Drug Warehouse, 3222 S. Main St., for the purpose of drag racing after exchanging taunting text messages. The shooting took place after they left the lot in their vehicles to drag race at another location.
But Spencer reportedly stopped his car, blocking the pickup truck Yaple was driving, and got out and started shooting at him. Kathleen Miller, an assistant prosecutor, said police believe that about 13 shots were fired at the truck.
A second occupant of the truck, David Adams, 23, of Neosho, escaped being struck by any of the rounds. But his presence in the vehicle provided the basis for the B felony count of assault.
The defendant’s plea bargain limited the prison time he would receive to 13 years for each of the assault convictions and five years for armed criminal action, with the terms to run concurrent. Circuit Judge Tim Perigo accepted the plea agreement and assessed the terms.
Miller said Spencer will be required to serve at least 85 percent of the prison term before he is eligible for parole.