Jury acquits delivery driver of main charge in shooting of YouTube prankster
Sep 28, 2023, 10:00 AM | Updated: 5:30 pm
LEESBURG, Va. (AP) — A jury on Thursday found a delivery driver not guilty in the shooting of a YouTube prankster who followed him around a mall food court earlier this year.
Alan Colie, 31, was acquitted of aggravated malicious wounding in the shooting of Tanner Cook, 21, who runs the “Classified Goons” YouTube channel.
The jury was split though on two lesser firearms counts, and decided to convict him on one and acquit him on the other.
The April 2 shooting at the food court in Dulles Town Center, about 45 minutes west of the nation’s capital, set off panic as shoppers fled what they feared to be a mass shooting.
Colie pleaded not guilty and said he was acting in self defense.
The verdict came Thursday after about five hours of deliberation. Three hours in, the jury sent out a note saying it was “divided in terms of whether the defendant acted in self defense.”
Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Snow called the jury back into the courtroom around 3:30 p.m. and urged them to continue deliberations, a standard admonition given to juries that indicate they are deadlocked.
The jury then delivered its verdicts at the end of the day.
Colie’s defense attorney, Adam Pouilliard, said the conviction on the firearms charge is inconsistent with the law, given Colie’s acquittal on self defense grounds. He asked the judge to set aside the conviction. A judge will hear arguments on the issue at a hearing next month.
Colie, who has been in custody since his April arrest, will remain incarcerated.
Pouilliard said during Thursday’s closing arguments that his client felt menaced by the 6-foot-5 (1.95-meter-tall) Cook during the confrontation, which was designed to provoke a reaction and to draw viewers to Cook’s YouTube channel.
Cook, Pouilliard said, “is trying to confuse people to post videos. He’s not worried that he’s scaring people. He keeps doing this.”
Jurors saw video of the shooting, which captures the confrontation between Cook and Colie lasting less than 30 seconds. The footage shows Cook approaching Colie as he picks up a food order. Cook looms over Colie while holding a cellphone about 6 inches (15 centimeters) from Colie’s face. The phone broadcasts the phrase “Hey dips—, quit thinking about my twinkle” multiple times through a Google Translate app.
In the video, Colie says “stop” three different times and tries to back away from Cook, who continues to advance. Colie tries to knock the phone away from his face before pulling out a gun and shooting Cook in the lower left chest. There is no pause between the moment he draws the weapon and fires the shot.
Prosecutor Eden Holmes said the facts don’t support a self-defense argument. The law requires that Colie reasonably fear that he was in imminent danger of bodily harm, and that he use no more force than is necessary. She said Cook’s prank was bizarre but not threatening.
“They were playing a silly phrase on a phone,” she said. “How could the defendant have found that he was reasonably in fear of imminent bodily harm?”
The charges of aggravated malicious wounding and malicious discharge of a firearm also require the jury to find that Colie acted with malice.
If the jury finds that Colie was responding to a provocation that reasonably arouses fear or anger, then there is no malice under the law.
Colie, who has been jailed since his April arrest, testified in his own defense about the fear that Cook’s prank elicited. Pouilliard said during closing arguments that Colie is aware of the dangers that delivery drivers can face as they interact with the public and that he has a license to carry a concealed weapon.
Cook’s “Classified Goons” channel, which has more than 50,000 subscribers, is replete with off-putting stunts, like pretending to vomit on Uber drivers and following unsuspecting customers through department stores. At a preliminary hearing, sheriff’s deputies testified that they were well aware of Cook and have received calls about previous stunts.
Cook said he continues to make the videos, from which he earns $2,000 to $3,000 a month.