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July 24, 2014

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‘Real dumb mistake’ brings 8- to 20-year prison sentence in Strip road-rage shooting

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Steve Marcus

Brittanie Merritt-Burwell reacts after sentencing at the Regional Justice Center Monday April 28, 2014. Merritt-Burwell was sentenced to 96-240 months in prison on charges relating to a road rage incident on the Las Vegas Strip in December 2013.

Road Rage Sentencing

Brittanie Merritt-Burwell appears in court during sentencing at the Regional Justice Center Monday April 28, 2014. Merritt-Burwell  was sentenced to 96-240 months in prison on charges relating to a road rage incident on the Las Vegas Strip in December 2013. Launch slideshow »

Apologizing for what she called a "stupid, real dumb mistake," Brittanie Merritt-Burwell stood handcuffed before a judge this morning and asked for probation in the road-rage shooting of a man last year on the Las Vegas Strip.

She was immature and foolish to hurt someone with a gun, said Burwell, 22, vowing to advocate for tougher age restrictions on firearms once freed.

Yet with little hesitation, Clark County District Judge David Barker swiftly imposed a sentence of eight to 20 years in prison for the Dec. 23 shooting, the maximum allowable under a plea deal agreement she took in February. Merritt-Burwell is getting credit for 120 days already served at Clark County Jail.

Under the deal, Merritt-Burwell pleaded guilty in February to attempted murder, avoiding lesser charges of battery and discharging a firearm at or into a vehicle. She has no previous criminal record.

Metro Police said Merritt-Burwell shot the victim because his vehicle prevented her from switching lanes in the 3700 block of Las Vegas Boulevard South, near Harmon Avenue. Witnesses saw Merritt-Burwell walk out of her car, approach the man's vehicle and shoot him through an open window, according to an incident report.

The man was rushed to University Medical Center, where he was treated for the gunshot wound, which exited through his chest. He survived.

"There was just so much built up in me" during the confrontation, Merritt-Burwell told Barker this morning.

She told the judge she wanted to apologize to "everybody in Las Vegas" and to the victim, who did not attend her sentencing.

Exasperated, she brought one hand to her face as Barker doled out her punishment. Her jaw dropped briefly in apparent disbelief.

Yet moments earlier, Merritt-Burwell had told Barker that she felt indebted to the victim for his months of recovery.

"I took something from him that he'll never get back — time," she said.

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