A woman who has been convicted of reckless endangerment after she shot a homeless man in Nashville five years ago will not serve any jail time for the offense.
Katie Quackenbush, now a 32-year-old mother of four, shot Gerald Melton, a 54-year-old homeless man, at approximately 3 a.m. on August 26, 2017, after he asked her to move her Porsche SUV. Quackenbush had parked her running car near where Melton was trying to sleep on Music Row, and the loud music and exhaust from the vehicle began to disturb him.
Melton then confronted Quackenbush, and the two got into a heated argument, Melton testified at the trial back in April. At some point during the argument, Quackenbush even asked him "if he wanted to die tonight," Melton recalled.
Melton said he had already begun to walk away when Quackenbush exited her vehicle and shot him in the abdomen. She fired two rounds total, only one of which struck Melton.
Police claimed she and a companion then left the scene and drove to a Taco Bell without reporting the shooting. An unidentified person who eventually found Melton wounded called 9-1-1. Melton ultimately survived the incident, though he did require three surgeries.
At the trial, Quackenbush testified in her own defense and claimed that she felt threatened by Melton. Her father, Jesse Quackenbush, who is also an attorney, alleged that she was just trying to scare Melton and issued him a "warning" before firing in his general direction.
"She pulled off one round as a means of warning, not intending to hit him or kill him," Jesse Quackenbush told reporters. "She thought she pointed far enough away from him to just scare him away, and he kept coming and she shot another round."
Katie Quackenbush was then arrested and charged with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The jury found her guilty of the lesser misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment.
At the sentencing on Thursday, Quackenbush apologized to Melton and to those affected by the shooting. However, she positioned herself as a victim as well.
"Millions of people were making fun of me online," she said at the hearing. "I was convicted by the community before trial.
"For five years, I've been having to live with this ... social punishment," she added. "Even after all of this is over, Google is always going to be there. This will follow me for the rest of my life."
She also expressed fears that a prison sentence would ruin the lives of her children, all of whom have different fathers.
Prosecutors, by contrast, emphasized that Melton was unarmed during the attack and that Quackenbush has a history of issuing threats against people in text messages and on social media. She even once threatened to strike a baby with a brick.
However, she was never convicted regarding any other incident and has attempted to put her life on a better path. She moved from Nashville to Amarillo, Texas, and is close to finishing her college degree.
The judge ultimately sentenced her 11 months and 29 days of probation for the crime.
"This has been the worst experience of my life," Quackenbush stated at the hearing, "but I'm grateful that I had it because it has changed me so dramatically to the core.
"Sometimes hard lessons are the best lessons."