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Jury finds Ryan Long guilty of manslaughter for fatal shooting in Lincoln alley
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Jury finds Ryan Long guilty of manslaughter for fatal shooting in Lincoln alley

From the What you missed this week in notable Southeast Nebraska crimes and court cases series
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Ryan Long trial, 10.6

Ryan Long testifies in his own defense during his trial for the murder of Michael Whitemagpie last week. He was found guilty of manslaughter Tuesday.

A jury Tuesday found Ryan Long guilty of manslaughter and use of a firearm to commit a felony for the shooting death of Michael Whitemagpie in an alley near 33rd and T streets last year.

Long, who was facing a first-degree murder charge, appeared by video to hear the verdict after someone in his housing pod at the county jail tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. 

Ryan G. Long

Ryan G. Long

Jurors were given what's called a step instruction, asking them first to consider whether Long was guilty of first-degree murder, before moving on to second-degree murder, then manslaughter. 

Manslaughter is a killing without malice upon a sudden quarrel. He could get up to 20 years in prison on the charge and another 50 on the gun charge at his sentencing in November. 

Michael Whitemagpie

Michael Whitemagpie

Long described the killing before sunrise May 23, 2020, as self-defense. He said he feared Whitemagpie was going to seriously hurt or kill him when he approached with a scowl and said "'Sup, (N-word)" in an aggressive tone an hour after Whitemagpie assaulted him at a hotel at 27th and O streets.

Long fired at Whitemagpie 16 times. 

In closing arguments Friday, Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Charles Byrd said the number of gunshots showed rage and anger, not self-defense. 

He said Whitemagpie embarrassed Long in front of his friends that night, and so Long got a gun and took it to a meeting in an alleyway near 33rd and T streets. And, after swearing on his dead brother he wasn't going to use it, Long hid it in his waistband so Whitemagpie would keep walking closer.

On the other side, defense attorney Michael Wilson said it wasn't as simple as the state made it out to be.

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He said the state made a lot of hay about the number of shots. But the gunfire lasted less than five seconds. 

Wilson said Long wasn't a firearms expert and had never had to defend himself like that  before. He was on autopilot, trying to stop the threat, he said, and didn't even know if he was hitting Whitemagpie.

"This is the heat of the moment," Wilson told the jury in closing arguments. "If Mr. Whitemagpie gets that firearm from him, he's a dead man."

Long testified that he brought the gun for protection, concerned the meeting could be a set-up. He said Whitemagpie had a reputation for sometimes getting violent when he drank and said he had no idea why Whitemagpie had assaulted him at the hotel. 

The jury of eight women and four men got the case for deliberations shortly after 12:30 p.m. Friday but went home that afternoon without a verdict. They returned Tuesday and reached a verdict mid-morning, rejecting the self-defense argument as well as the state's assertion it was first-degree murder. 

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger

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Public safety reporter

Lori Pilger is a Norfolk native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been a public safety reporter for the Journal Star since 2005.

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