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Buffalo man gets 20 years for shooting friend over gambling debt

A Buffalo man who shot a family friend three times over a gambling debt – telling him “It’s time to die” before firing the final bullet into his face – was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison.

In December an Erie County Court jury found James R. Thomas Jr., 28, of Minnesota Avenue found guilty of attempted murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon in the near-fatal shooting of Leonard Webb on Sept. 1, 2013. At trial, Webb testified that he owed $1,000 to Thomas, whom he knew as “JT,” and that a few months later Thomas confronted him.

Webb, 58, testified that, after riding around with Thomas and his uncle one afternoon, Thomas pulled the car over and told Webb, “You and me need to talk about this money.”

They got out of the car and walked up the sidewalk, until Webb realized that Thomas had dropped behind him and was reaching into his pants for a gun. As he fled, Thomas shot him in the back, and then in the abdomen. Webb fell to the ground, he said, and as he begged for his life, Thomas told him “It’s time to die,”and he shot him in the face. Despite his injuries Webb was able to reach his cellphone and call 911.

The shooting left Webb with a limp and other physical problems. Judge Sheila A. DiTullio said Webb’s condition was one of the factors she considered in sentencing Thomas to 20 years on the attempted murder conviction, to run concurrently with 10 year sentences for the other two convictions.