FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – An 18-year-old was sentenced Monday to 65 years in prison for his role in a fake gun deal that left a 27-year-old man dead.

Lonnel Tinker, 17 at the time of the murder in November 2022, was convicted in Allen Superior Court of felony murder and armed robbery in the shooting death of Johnny Ray Yates, Sr.

Standing up in orange and whitish prison stripes at his sentencing Monday, Lonnel Tinker continued to maintain his innocence while sort of apologizing for the death of the victim.

“I didn’t do that to y’all’s son. I’m not taking responsibility for something I didn’t do,” Tinker said confidently addressing the family of Johnny Yates, Sr., killed in November.

Grieving for Johnny Yates, Sr. are left to right: Cinnamon Yates (sister), Daquion Shears (best friend), Candace Yates (mother) and Direesa Yates (sister).

Once he saw what was going on, he jumped out of the car.

“We went to trade guns,” Tinker said. “I didn’t do the crime I’m convicted of.”

The jury thought differently on March 2 and convicted him. Monday Allen Superior Court Judge David Zent sentenced him to 65 years, the maximum sentencing allowed under Indiana law. But a second charge of robbery resulting in serious bodily injury was vacated.

Although Tinker’s attorney, Richard Thonert wanted the judge to show some leniency because of his age – Tinker was 17 when Yates was killed and was waived into adult court – Yates’ family asked Zent to show no mercy.

“I had to bury my son on his 28th birthday,” Candace Yates said during her time to address the judge before sentencing. “I have a high tolerance for pain. This is a pain I cannot describe.”

Then directly to Tinker: “You know what you was doing when you did it.”

Yates was killed around 6:25 p.m. Nov. 28 in the 2900 block of Reed Street when he pulled up to trade a couple of guns for a Glock 48 with a drum magazine, court documents said.

Another man, Anfernee “Sho Time” Dean, 25, is reported to have gone up to the car along while Tinker and another man got in to the backseat. From the get-go they tried to rob Yates of the guns. Dean is accused of participating in the Yates’ shooting and is scheduled to appear in front of a jury in August, according to court documents. Yates was shot from behind.

There was a fight over the car keys with the woman driving the car and as she snatched them back, she said she heard the gunshots that killed Yates, court documents said.

She quickly got out of the car and on to the ground and watched the attackers flee. She then got back in the car and drove to Monroe Street.

Investigators were aided by surveillance video.

Other family members asked for the maximum sentence, arguing that he was guilty of luring Yates into the gun deal that was a set-up.

TaShira Velasquez, mother of Yates’ 10 year old son, Johnny Yates Jr. was one of them.

“He had the audacity to smile in my face for three days before I knew what he did,” Velasquez said. “I know what you did. You know what you did and didn’t care.”

Her son used to be a nice boy. Now he’s “turned into an angry, angry young boy who misses his dad,” Velasquez said. The father who used to play basketball with him is gone. “He doesn’t know you. He doesn’t know why you took him.”

Yates’ best friend, Daquion Shears, said after the sentencing that the problem was even deeper than losing someone to gun violence .

“I’m upset about my friend. But at the end of the day, the facts are two black families lost two people and we still wondering when it’s going to stop,” Shears said. “It comes from deeper than the actual people. Who you’re around, who you learn from, who raised you, it matters. So as people we’ve got to better. We’ve got to teach the kids better. We’ve got to do our peers better. As a community, we’ve just got to be better.”

As far as the sentencing, Shears said Tinker was sentenced on the felony murder conviction, but other charges had been dropped.

“They got rid of some of the stuff. You know maybe if you were remorseful, or you act like you care, you know, it would be okay so I’m not going to act like it was okay. I feel like they should’ve gave it all to him But it is what it is. We got justice.”

Shears said he’s known Yates since middle school.

“That was my best friend, like my brother. I seen him every day, talked to him every day. You couldn’t separate us. I don’t know how to take it now that he gone. We was kind of like one and the same. But life goes on.”