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Jan 23, 2010

Waterside Garage Shooter Acquitted of Murder Charge

By Michelle Washington
The Virginian-Pilot
© January 23, 2010


A jury found the man accused of murder in a March shooting at the Waterside parking garage guilty of unlawful wounding Friday, and sentenced him to serve 90 days in jail and pay a $2,500 fine.

Reginald Royals Jr., 25, was acquitted of all other charges, including the second-degree murder charge in the death of Juan Carlos Ovalle, 26.

Ovalle died from a single gunshot wound to the head. Ovalle’s friend, Marcus McGee, was shot five times. It was for that shooting that Royals was convicted.

The sentence means that Royals, in custody since the shooting, was released Friday night, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

“All I want to say is, God is good,” said Royals’ mother, Jacquelyn Royals, after hearing the sentence.

The verdict and sentence concluded an emotional three-day trial during which dozens of friends and family members for both sides crowded the courtroom.

Prosecutor Megan Zwisohn told jurors from the beginning that the case was not about good versus evil.

Both Royals and Ovalle were hard-working men who had never been in trouble. Both had legally purchased handguns for which they had concealed-weapons permits.

Both men had their guns in the parking garage at Waterside. Their cars bumped as bar patrons left the area around closing time March 22.

The incident escalated to a fistfight.

Royals testified Thursday that he had not been the aggressor in the confrontation and that Ovalle had brandished his gun.

Royals said Ovalle and McGee attacked him and that he only pulled his own gun because he believed Ovalle reached for his.

During his sentencing hearing, Royals thanked jurors for listening to him.

“You had my life in your hands,” Royals said. “I never imagined in my whole life that anything like this would happen. I would never wish this on anyone. I wish things could have turned out totally different.”

McGee testified that he had lost his job and his apartment in the months following the shooting, because he was mentally unable to work. All five bullets remain in his body.

Many in Ovalle’s family cried after the verdict acquitting Royals of murder.

Outside the courtroom, his sister-in-law, Karen Ovalle, said the family would not stay for the sentencing.

“We can’t keep our composure in court,” Karen Ovalle said. She stood with her husband, Juan Carlos’ brother, Manuel.

“We’re going to be crying,” said Juan Carlos Ovalle’s sister, Belkis Ovalle. “We can’t believe that it’s happening.”

Royals’ friends and family held hands as they awaited the verdict. There were gasps and tears when it was announced. Royals’ mother hugged his lawyer, Jeffrey Swartz.

Swartz gathered Royals’ clothes to take to his mother. Royals would return to the jail to complete the paperwork that would set him free.

“Although there’s relief, there’s no joy here,” Swartz said. “Reggie’s family understands that a man is dead and another shot. Reggie will have to live with the decision he was forced to make in the blink of an eye.”