“Me and three other people were walking to a store heading west on Washington towards Rainbow. We were kids. Pretty much just 15-year-old kids walking up the street.”
Mario Taylor is now 32-years-old. He’s telling us the story that landed him in prison for the better part of two decades.
“We were lollygagging crossing the street. This car turns in, they got really really close. I felt like he hit me with his car. I’m instantly upset. I figure I’m going to go confront him. In the midst of everything, I pulled a gun out cause I wasn’t sure if he had a gun or not. So I shot him.”
On Jan. 9, 1996, Mario Taylor took a life. He was 15 and called himself a gangster. In one moment, Christopher Beaver lost his life, a mother lost her son, and Mario Taylor lost his freedom.
We talked to Christopher Beaver’s mother on the phone. She declined our interview requests but did talk to News 3 just days after the shooting.
“That’s the most terrifying thing, to know that this could be anyone,” she said.
Taylor confessed that night, was arrested and soon the weight of what he did began to sink him.
“You just don’t know when you’re in that situation,” Taylor told us. “You just don’t know until you’re sitting in that cell with your mind and you’re sitting there and it just dawned on me. ‘Wow, I think I’m going to be gone for a long time.’”
In America, the same time Taylor was locked up our country was going through changes. Gang violence threatened communities from coast to coast. Just 15 days after the shooting, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton introduced a term that would change the justice system.
It was during her speech at Keene State College: “They are often the kinds of kids that are called 'super-predators,'" Clinton told reporters. “We can talk about how they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”
Taylor took a plea deal and was sentenced to a possible 90 years in prison. For the first three, he tried to fit in, joined a gang in prison and witnessed violent fights.
It was then that he had a realization. “It was more despair. ‘Do I give up, do I fight do I lay down? Do I accept, do I become like them? Do I become my surroundings?’ That was my biggest struggle. Am I going to become where I am?”
His fear is the same feat motivating changes to the way we sentence people. If you put kids in prison, are they going to learn from the prisoners?
“Peer pressure, peer pressure,” Taylor says. “They become the product of their environment.”
Taylor instead took classes and prepared for the day he would get out. And one day that happened. Gov. Jim Gibbons commuted his sentence, and six years ago, Mario Taylor was freed.
He now lives in a part of Las Vegas that didn’t exist when he was locked up. He works as an electrician, he’s married, campaigned to end lifetime incarceration, and mentors at-risk kids.
He does it to make up for what he took, and in our interview, he said words that he has not yet said to Christopher Beaver’s family.
“I would’ve told you that I was wrong. And for forgiveness and give me a chance to show you that I can do right and it was a mistake and if I could take it back I would. I’m extremely remorseful. I’m not trying to brutally murder someone, but it happened and I’m extremely sorry.”