ST. LOUIS -- A former Marine was sent to prison Thursday after admitting he tried to rob two black men, then lied to police and blamed the victims for the crime.
Police arrested the black men, who are brothers. City prosecutors eventually charged the Marine, who is white, with the crimes after surveillance video showed what really happened in the downtown St. Louis alley that day in August 2017.
Patrick John Owens, 30, was sentenced to five years in prison for attempted robbery and three years each on three other felonies. He also was sentenced to six months for making a false report, a misdemeanor.
The sentences will run concurrently.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Scott Millikan told Owens that even though Owens had served his country, he had violated the Marine code and that innocent men almost had their lives destroyed because of his false report, according to prosecutors.
Surveillance video showed that Owens pulled his pickup truck into an alley. He got out with a baseball bat and a mask, then waited behind a trash bin. The two men, Jerry and Christopher Tate, arrived in a truck and stopped, and one of them got out of the truck to urinate in the alley.
Owens put down the bat and took off his mask, the video showed. He put a gun into his back waistband, then walked up to the Tate brothers.
Owens asked the brothers for a ride, then pulled the gun on them. One of the brothers struggled for the gun. It went off, and Christopher Tate was hit in the hand; the bullet also grazed his face.
The brothers grabbed the gun and ran off around the corner.
Prosecutors say the brothers ran down Washington Street with the gun, and a police officer stopped them. About that time, Owens drove up and said the men had just robbed him of his gun. The officer arrested the brothers.
Prosecutors didn't file charges against Owens because he wasn't available to talk with them about the case. Six months later, in February 2018, Owens was charged with the crimes. He pleaded guilty Nov. 29.
Owens' defense attorney, Greg Smith, said Owens apologized to the victims' mother in court. The brothers were not there. Smith said he gave the court 17 letters of support for Owens, from friends and fellow Marines.
"Patrick's got a lot of support, and he's done a lot of good things in his life, and those letters reflected all of that," Smith said.
Smith said he didn't know a motive for the attack.
What happened in the alley that day was due to "a combination of alcohol, several medications, and post-traumatic stress from his time in Afghanistan and Iraq -- and they all hit at the same time. Those 10 minutes shouldn't be what he's known for the rest of his life."
Prosecutors say Owens will serve the full three years on the charge of armed criminal action before he would be eligible for parole on the other charges.
In a Post-Dispatch story last year about the case, the brothers credited their mother with helping crack the case. The brothers said they doubted they would have been believed had their mother not pressed police to look for surveillance video.
"My mother kept telling them that there was video all through that area," said Jerry Tate, 24.
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