Travis Michael Lamb punched a 39-year-old man, who later died. A year later, that’s one of the few facts in his case that’s indisputable.
What exactly led up to that punch, including whether the decedent was a willing participant and whether Lamb was shoved or threatened, remains unclear.
A jury last month convicted Lamb of three felonies including involuntary manslaughter. During Lamb’s sentencing Tuesday, Judge Michael E. Dellostrito weighed numerous factors before deciding how many years Lamb should serve in prison.
“From a factual standpoint, it’s a difficult case to assess for the purposes of sentencing,” Dellostrito said.
He decided on the mid-term of 16 years. Lamb has 448 days of in-custody credits, and must serve 85 percent of the sentence.
Dellostrito said witnesses provided a variety of versions of what happened between Lamb and Richard Joseph Gilroy. Some said Lamb was the aggressor, others maintained he was defending himself from two men circling him in a threatening manner.
The punch was intentional, the judge said, but the resulting death clearly was not. Dellostrito also took into consideration Lamb’s previous convictions — including one for assault with a deadly weapon.
The altercation took place March 23, 2013, in the Vons shopping center parking lot at 5360 Olive Drive. Lamb was driving through the lot when a friend of Gilroy’s struck his pickup with his hand because he thought Lamb was driving in an unsafe manner.
Lamb, 28, turned around and drove up to the man. The two began arguing.
Gilroy, the man’s friend, walked over and joined in the argument. It’s unclear what was said, or whether there was pushing involved.
Lamb punched Gilroy, breaking the portion of his skull where the bone meets the eye socket, according to prosecutors. Gilroy fell and hit his head on the pavement. He went into a coma and died at Kern Medical Center early the next month.
Prosecutor William Schlaerth said he was disappointed Dellostrito didn’t go with a probation officer’s recommended sentence of 18 years. He said the case was a challenge, but he believes the jury’s verdict shows that even if you throw just one punch you’ll be held responsible for the outcome.
Richard Terry, Lamb’s attorney, said both Gilroy and his friend were intoxicated and Lamb felt threatened by them. Gilroy had a blood alcohol content of .27 — the legal limit for driving is .08 — and the friend admitted to drinking seven beers before the confrontation, Terry said.
“What was he supposed to do?” Terry asked. “Wait for someone to hit him?”
Instead, Lamb defended himself. Terry said it’s the type of confrontation that happens every day in Bakersfield, but this one unfortunately ended in a “tragic, and accidental, death.”