A Cheyenne teen convicted of first-degree murder has been sentenced to life in prison.

"For the murder in the first-degree of Tyler Burns, upon the jury's verdict of guilty, Mr. Sam is sentenced to life imprisonment," said Laramie County District Court Judge Thomas Campbell. "The finding by the court on the base of the order that he was under 18 at the time of the crime will be included."

17-year-old Phillip Sam was found guilty of first-degree murder and 12 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon last August.

On October 5, 2014, Sam opened fire on a group of teens near Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, killing 19-year-old Tyler Burns.

"What I did was an impulse rather than a prearranged plan and I did not go to the park intending to kill anybody," said Sam. "I had a gun that night because I thought it would be cool to show off to my friends as well as to protect myself, my family and my friends in case they intended to harm us."

"It's the 75 feet you walked before you fired those last rounds that weigh so heavily against you now," said Campbell. "It might have been adrenaline, but it wasn't impulse."

Sam was tried as an adult, but because he was 16 when the shooting occurred the state could not seek the death penalty in the case.

"The unfortunate incident that occurred a year ago was committed by an immature child who really had no grasp on what he was doing and the consequences that it entailed," said Sam. "There's nothing I can do that'll bring back Tyler, but what I can do is offer my apologies."

"I have a hard time even accepting, if they do or not, your apology to the victims," said Campbell. "This is not just cold-blooded, it is a disrespectful, cowardly act."

Normally, Sam would have been eligible for parole after 25 years, but Campbell also sentenced him to three separate 9-10 year sentences for the aggravated assault convictions. Those sentences are to be served concurrent to one another and consecutive to the life sentence should Sam ever be paroled.

"That gives the parole board something to work with. He gets good time under the rules against that 25," said Campbell. "I'm satisfied that by the time he's at the end of that, the parole board will know and will have nearly 30 years to work with consecutively after that. It will be up to them and him to earn his way out of prison if, in fact, these notions of rehabilitation or something are still of any interest to anyone at the age he will be."

Joy Greenwald, Townsquare Media
Joy Greenwald, Townsquare Media

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