Manatee County teen sentenced for killing Braden River High School student

James Griffin Sentencing

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - A Manatee County teenager will spend 12 years in prison for the death of a 17-year-old Braden River High School student.

James Griffin Jr., 17, was sentenced Friday to shooting and killing Drevian Mays in Newtown in March. Griffin plead no contest to manslaughter in July.

Friday, Griffin had to face around 50 of Mays’ family and friends in court during a two-hour sentencing.

They were visibly distraught and many were wearing shirts that said, "How many years for a lifetime of tears?” A few told the judge about the high school senior’s kindness and leadership. They said Mays was the point guard for Braden River High School’s basketball team and grew up in church.

“I can’t imagine, your honor, to shoot my best friend, my bestie, my buddy, my homeboy, then to leave him to die?" said Schonda Crumbs, Mays’ great aunt. "You would have to drag me away from his body. There’s no way I would have left him there. And I was amazed by that.”

The two 17-year-olds were friends, according to Griffin, who said he killed Mays on accident.

“I honestly don’t have an explanation to how the gun went off," Griffin told the judge Friday. "I don’t know. But the gun went off.”

Griffin said he and Mays were with two other friends celebrating a birthday that night in March. Griffin asked to make a quick stop to pick up a new gun in Newtown and said he was looking at it when it fired.

Seconds later, another friend in the car started screaming. Mays had been shot in his head.

“They were screaming and yelling and I couldn’t hear nothing they were saying, I was just stuck, in shock,” Griffin said to the judge.

Then - Griffin ran. When asked why, he said, "I don’t know, I was scared.”

He was already on probation for a prior gun charge and had dropped out of Braden River High School in 10th grade when he was arrested for burglary.

Griffin would later turn himself in, but Mays’ family said the irreparable damage is already done.

“Your mother can see you and talk to you, we don’t get that. We have to go and see a headstone with his picture on it,” said a tearful Shamika Neal, Mays’ aunt, during sentencing. “I was so excited that I was gonna get the chance to see my first nephew walk across that stage and get his diploma, but that day never came because you took that away from him.”

Mays was just months from graduating.

The judge sentenced Griffin to 12 years in prison with an additional five years of probation, instead of considering him as a juvenile. His reasoning was Griffin’s prior charges, probation violations and pictures on social media of Griffin showing off guns in the past.

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