Waco man who shot girlfriend, left her paralyzed pleads guilty

Prosecutors are seeking life in prison for the 23-year-old felon
Dari Washington pleaded guilty to a first-degree felony aggravated assault charge and asked...
Dari Washington pleaded guilty to a first-degree felony aggravated assault charge and asked 54th State District Judge Susan Kelly to assess his punishment.(KWTX GRAPHIC)
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 6:31 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Prosecutors are seeking life in prison for a 23-year-old Waco man who shot his girlfriend during an argument in May 2021, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.

Dari Washington, who was set to stand trial Monday, pleaded guilty to a first-degree felony aggravated assault charge and asked 54th State District Judge Susan Kelly to assess his punishment.

Kelly conducted a sentencing hearing Tuesday afternoon at which Washington, who has a history of depression and other mental issues, apologized to his former girlfriend, to her son and to the judge for his history of violence against women.

Prosecutors Luke McCowan and Duncan Widmann asked Kelly to sentence Washington to life in prison during the hearing, which included testimony from a trauma surgeon, who said one of the four bullets that struck Jaira Kirven was one centimeter away from striking her heart and causing certain death.

“We were one centimeter away from this being a murder case,” Widmann told the judge in closing arguments.

The judge ordered a presentence report to be conducted by the probation department, which she will review before sentencing Washington on June 8.

Washington, who rejected a 30-year plea offer, fired nine shots from a 9 mm pistol at Kirven, striking her four times, including one bullet that lodged near her spine and narrowly missed her heart.

Kirven, who testified at the hearing from a wheelchair, said she and Washington had been living together at the Eagle Crest Apartments on Bellmead Drive for about three months when they got into an argument about his relationship with some of his friends. She said she called him fake, and he grabbed her pistol. He said, “Well, since I’m fake..” and then cocked the gun and fired a shot into her back and one in her thigh, she said.

McCowan and Widmann played a recording of Kirven’s frantic 911 call to Bellmead police in which she pleaded for help and said she couldn’t feel her legs.

She said Washington threw the gun down in the apartment, grabbed the keys to her purple Chevrolet Spark and fled. Washington surrendered to police about a mile from the apartment.

Kirven said she underwent emergency surgery and spent about two months in the hospital. She said doctors left three bullets in her, including one near her spine, one on her right side and one in her pelvic area. She said they had a good relationship and Washington was good to her son before the shooting incident.

Washington told Kelly that he pleaded guilty and is accepting responsibility for his actions and taking ownership of his prior mistakes, which include knocking a woman unconscious in 2017 and posting a video on Facebook of him and a 14-year-old girl having sex in a Waco High School bathroom in 2016.

Both of those incidents resulted in convictions for Washington after his deferred probation in each case was revoked for failure to comply with the terms and conditions of probation. He also has a conviction for misdemeanor criminal mischief.

Washinton testified he was sexually abused by a relative when he was 7, resulting in a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He said he knows he has mental health issues, but stopped taking his medication. He told the judge he wants to be a better person and pledged to seek psychological counseling and to get back on medication to curb his violent tendencies.

In closing, Widmann told the judge that Washington has had plenty of chances to change his behavior and seems to becoming more violent with each episode. He said it’s time to put away concerns about how to help Washington and start worrying about how to protect society and Washington’s next victim.

Defense attorney Darren Obenoskey told Kelly that Washington genuinely wants to improve his behavior and said he trusts her to assess the appropriate punishment.