Man charged with murder
Thomas O’Connor asked a 16-year-old South Lake Tahoe boy if he felt lucky before shooting him in the chest Feb. 9, according to a witness who testified Tuesday in an El Dorado County Superior Court.
Catrina Adams, 17, said Brad Parent was killed during a “big game,” in which guests in O’Connor’s apartment on D street took turns playing with a gun he was given by High Sierra Patrol, where he worked as a security guard. After hearing testimony from her and from South Lake Tahoe Police Detective Martin Hewlett, Judge Suzanne Kingsbury decided there was enough evidence to hold O’Connor, 23, for trial.
O’Connor has been charged with second-degree murder, which implies that the District Attorney’s Office believes he showed malice or a conscious disregard for human life when he shot Parent.
Jordan Morganstern, O’Connor’s attorney, said he did not expect Kingsbury’s decision, but that he was not surprised by it, either.
“This was, unfortunately, a big – but stupid – game,” Morganstern said. “I am confident that the truth will still come out. Once all the witnesses have a chance to testify and all the evidence has been presented this could be viewed as a tragic accident.”
O’Connor drove Parent to the hospital after the shooting and told investigators he did not mean to fire the gun.
“I think to say that this was a tragic thing that didn’t need to happen is a significant understatement,” said Kingsbury, who added that O’Connor clearly lacked sufficient maturity or judgment to be given a gun.
That lack of judgment is also the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the victim’s mother, Loretta Parent, against High Sierra Patrol and against O’Connor.
“Obviously she is extremely upset and distraught over the loss of her son,” attorney Amy Tobin said of her client, who is seeking compensation and punitive damages. “Especially in circumstances that could have been avoided.”
Tobin called O’Connor’s training at High Sierra Patrol woefully inadequate and said, “There was no way he should have been given a gun.”
Pat Brennen, the owner of the security company, allegedly received several complaints about O’Connor prior to the shooting, according to Tobin.
“A month before Bradley (Parent) was killed there was a complaint made that O’Connor was brandishing a firearm, presumably the same one used in the shooting, in a local store,” Tobin said. That complaint was allegedly made by a security guard.
Brennen was not available for comment or to provide details about O’Connor’s training, which included 12 hours of classes and target practice, according to Hewlett.
There were seven teen-agers at the apartment where Parent was killed, according to Adams.
She said that Parent seemed scared when O’Connor held the gun one foot from his chest and pulled the trigger five times – firing it the last time. O’Connor had allegedly loaded one bullet into the gun but did not expect it to fire.
“(Brad) told him to put the gun down, because ‘I don’t want to get shot,'” Adams said, but did not say that Parent was shot purposefully.
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