Man who shot and killed a man while testing ballistic vest sentenced to probation

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Steven R. Watson was sentenced Oct. 3 to five years of probation for negligent homicide in the shooting death of Parker Ray Lynch on Feb. 11.

By Jon Johnson

GRAHAM COUNTY – Steven Russell Watson, 22, of Thatcher, shot and killed Parker Ray Lynch, 25, also of Thatcher, testing out a ballistic vest in February and he will not have to spend a day in prison for it.

On Oct. 3, Watson was sentenced to five years of standard supervised probation. He was also given one year in jail, however, 331 days were suspended and he was given credit for four days already served. That means he will only have to serve 30 days in jail, which he began serving Oct. 7. Upon release, he will also have to complete 200 hours of community service, including 40 hours relating to gun safety. 

On May 7, Watson had a settlement conference and pleaded guilty to a single charge of negligent homicide – a Class-4 felony – in exchange for dropping charges of manslaughter, endangerment, and two counts of aggravated assault.

Sentencing was left up to the discretion of the court and ranged from probation or up to 3.75 years in prison. 

According to Arizona Revised Statute 13-1102, a person commits negligent homicide if the person’s criminal negligence causes the death of another person. 

That appears to sum up this case, in which Lynch willingly put on his own ballistic vest and asked Watson to shoot him while wearing it. The single, .223 rifle shot penetrated the vest’s armored plate and struck Lynch in his lower abdomen, killing him. 

The incident took place in the desert area by the Gila River just north of the Reay Lane Bridge on Feb. 11. Others were with the two men at the scene and attempted to stop the bleeding by applying pressure, but Lynch was later declared deceased during surgery at Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center.