A woman was sentenced to 15 years in prison Friday for assisting the people who shot a man to death at a Pine Ridge youth center over an alleged drug debt. She received almost double the maximum prison time she faced.
Tiffanee Garnier, 31, earlier pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the murder of Vincent Brewer III in the mid-afternoon of Oct. 16, 2016.
She admitted driving to the SuAnne Big Crow Youth Development Center with Brewer’s attackers, witnessing people in masks shoot the 29-year-old man and escaping to Denver with the suspects. There were at least seven people in Garnier’s group, and she drove one of the two getaway vehicles.
“This crime truly rocked the Pine Ridge community,” the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rich, said at the Rapid City federal courthouse Friday afternoon.
Brewer had been playing in a basketball tournament outside the youth center, surrounded by children and other adults, when two vehicles pulled up, Rich said. Several people tried to put Brewer inside one of the vehicles, but he escaped and was shot “well over a dozen times.”
Brewer, better known as Vinny, died on the spot.
The incident elicited extreme fear in the community, Rich said, especially since so much was initially unknown. At least three of Brewer’s relatives told the court they worried that the gunmen would come back and kill their family.
The police investigation that followed was apparently one of the most extensive in the District of South Dakota. Three men — Myles Tuttle, Francisco Villanueva and Adan Corona — have since been federally charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit assault in the attack against Brewer.
Their indictment states that the men and other unidentified people traveled from Colorado to South Dakota “with a plan to assault and kidnap Brewer in order to collect the alleged drug debt.”
Garnier was one of the group’s contacts in South Dakota — if not the main contact, Rich told District Court Chief Judge Jeffrey Viken. The court earlier heard from defense lawyer Lorie Melone that since her early teens, Garnier had been involved with a physically abusive and domineering man who was part of an out-of-state drug gang.
She led “a life of surrender to that man,” Melone said.
Brewer's mother told the court that Garnier and her son, both from Pine Ridge, had been good friends. And Brewer, who had been a loving and funny guy, changed after he got caught up in meth.
Garnier, speaking between anguished sobs, apologized for her involvement in Brewer’s death.
“I just want the family to know that I’m truly sorry,” she said. “He didn’t deserve to die the way he did … I wish I’d stopped it.”
The judge acknowledged that Garnier suffered abuse in the hands of a drug gang member and had accepted responsibility for her offense. But, Viken said, she had developed a criminal mindset, which in Brewer’s case meant assisting the group carry out retribution to show it can’t be messed with and helping the murder suspects escape.
He described Brewer's killing as a gang-related homicide. Garnier was earlier charged with first-degree murder, which had been dismissed under her plea deal with prosecutors.
“I have to punish you, and I have to punish you severely,” Viken told Garnier before announcing a 15-year prison sentence followed by three years of supervised release. “I can do no less.”
Under the sentencing guideline range, Garnier had been facing a maximum of nine years in prison.