‘You’re getting a big chance here’: Quincy man involved in January shooting incident gets 364 days in jail, three years of probation

Aaron Gallaher sentencing

A teary-eyed Aaron Gallaher looks at family members while bailiff Kyle Ebers puts handcuffs on him during Gallaher's sentencing hearing Monday afternoon in Adams County Circuit Court. | Pool photo by David Adam/Muddy River News

QUINCY — A Quincy man facing up to five years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for a January shooting incident received a sentence of 364 days in the Adams County Jail and three years of probation during a sentencing hearing Monday afternoon.

Aaron J. Gallaher, 20, appeared with attorney Gerald Timmerwilke in Adams County Circuit Court before Judge Robert Adrian.

Gallaher was charged with aggravated discharge of a firearm at an occupied vehicle, a Class 1 felony. Had a jury Gallaher found guilty in a trial, he would have faced between four and 15 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. He pled guilty on Sept. 20 in exchange for a prison sentence to be capped at five years.

Assistant State’s Attorney Josh Jones asked for Gallaher to be sentenced to five years. Timmerwilke asked for Gallaher to receive probation.

After announcing his sentence, Adrian told Gallaher, “You’re getting a big chance here, Mr. Gallaher. I had both your mom and stepdad in court. I may have been the one who sentenced your mom to the Department of Corrections. This doesn’t please me to see families go on like this. This is your chance. Take advantage of it.”

The Quincy Police Department responded to a report of a shooting that took place in the 1000 block of Bonansinga Drive around 8 p.m. on Jan. 17.  No one was injured during the shooting. An arrest warrant was issued Jan. 31 for Gallaher, and he turned himself in two days later.

His bond originally was set at $100,000 and reduced to $50,000, then reduced again to $25,000. He posted bond on Feb. 16.

Two witnesses spoke on Gallaher’s behalf before Adrian announced the sentence.

Mackenzie Cookson, manager of Riverside Barbecue and Grill, said Gallaher had been working at the restaurant since February. She said he was dependable.

“We work in a pretty high-stress environment, but he’s always shown level headedness,” Cookson said. “Say we would have a reservation for 10 people and 30 people showed up. He always just rolled with everything and took things as they came. Never any complaints. … We really rely on him a lot.”

Jack Freiburg said his step-grandson has helped him with projects at some properties he owns in Quincy.

“He and I always have always gotten along terrifically,” he said. “He is a terrific worker. In his younger days, he had a little bit of trouble showing up from time to time, but boy, when I got him there, he was there gung ho.”

Freiburg said Gallaher has no relationship with his father, who has spent most of life in prison. He said Gallaher’s mother pulled him out of school in the seventh grade to homeschool him, but that didn’t happen.

“His mother was not exactly a world class mother by any means,” he said.

Freiburg later added, “He realizes he made a severe error. He now has a 3-year-old son who he loves and wants to be a responsible parent for. Working responsibly and learning how to work with people … well, frankly, he’s never been an environment that actually has been very supportive for him. I think he will continue on the straight and narrow.”

Jones told Adrian he was “tired … really tired of shootings.”

“It seems like it happens if not every week, (then) multiple times a month,” he said. “We see another shooting, and it seems like more and more these shootings are being done by younger and younger individuals.

“Here we have a 20-year-old who, according to his statement, heard somebody yell at him and saw the window rolled down. His first reaction was to go into his car, where his 3-year-old son was and who he claims to love so much. He pulled out a loaded firearm, pointed it at a moving car and fired it multiple times. I’m so tired of this crap. Mr. Gallaher is incredibly lucky no one else was hurt. He’s incredibly lucky that the people who live in that area weren’t and didn’t happen to get struck by a stray bullet.

“I understand he’s 20 years old. I understand he has a job. I understand he had some tough breaks in life, but there’s a certain point in everybody’s life when you have to understand. Yes, it wasn’t fair that those things happened to him growing up, but it’s his choices that affect the rest of his life, not what happened in the past.”

Timmerwilke said Gallaher, despite a limited education, has “a lot to offer.” He believes Gallaher will follow probation because he believes Gallaher has shown he would do it every day since February when he took the job at Riverside.

During his statement of allocution, Gallaher said the word “mistake” was not the proper word to use when describing what he did.

“I don’t know what word to use to describe my actions,” he said. “I want to be a stand-up citizen. I made a really horrible choice with my son in my car. I want to get my GED. I want to go to college for culinary school. I love my job. I love to cook. I love to feed the people in this town. I love enjoying being with my son.”

“Mr. Gallaher, tell me the truth. Why were you shooting at that car?” Adrian asked.

“I was in fear of my life,” Gallaher said. 

“How can you be in fear of your life?” Adrian asked.

Gallaher stammered and then said, “The environment that I was hanging around with was an environment that I thought I was cool, which it was not. Obviously, I was putting myself in positions that I didn’t know that I was going to be getting in.”

Gallaher later said, “I thought they were going to harm me and my son.” He did not identify who “they” were.

“What made you think that?” Adrian asked.

“Because they’ve shot at my friends before,” Gallaher replied. “I didn’t know if they were going to harm me. I wasn’t 100 percent sure.”

Adrian said his first instinct was to sentence Gallaher to prison because there has been “far too much gunplay” in Quincy. However, he elected for probation based on a recommendation from the probation department. 

Adrian said Gallaher must serve 100 days of periodic imprisonment in the Adams County Jail.. Having already spent 10 days in the jail, he will spend 90 more days there but can continue working at Riverside. Adrian stayed — or suspended — the remaining 265 days in jail.

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