O’Conner found guilty of involuntary manslaughter
A jury found Thomas O’Connor guilty of involuntary manslaughter Thursday for shooting and killing 16-year-old Brad Parent while playing with a gun he had been issued by High Sierra Patrol.
The jury also decided it was not true that O’Connor used the gun as part of an intentional act. That means the maximum sentence the 24-year-old could get is four years in prison.
The jury, seven men and five women, started and ended it’s deliberations on Thursday in El Dorado County Superior Court. It reached a verdict at 3:30 p.m.
“None of us really thought murder was justified – that was just overkill,” said Joseph Martin, the 54-year-old jury foreperson. “Everyone took this very seriously and all of us finally determined it was involuntary manslaughter, that he didn’t intend to do it. This wasn’t intentional, he didn’t mean to shoot his friend.”
Parent’s mother, Loretta Ripley, was overcome with emotion because of the decision.
“This is ridiculous,” she said. “Somebody loads a gun, points it at someone and squeezes the trigger and they die. That’s murder! He killed my son. I’ll never get to see him again. He’ll walk in a few years and have babies, what about Brad?”
O’Connor’s family, which came up from the Bay area to attend the three-day trial, was jubilant because of the verdict, but they waited to show any emotion until the Parent family left the building.
“We think that everything was very fair,” said Betty O’Connor. “But we feel very badly for Brad.”
O’Connor’s father, Joe, said it was sad occasion no matter how favorable the verdict.
“It’s hard not to feel very happy and elated, but it’s still sad at the same time because we know what happened.”
O’Connor has been in the El Dorado County Jail at South Lake Tahoe since he shot Parent in the heart and lung on Feb. 9, 2000.
During the trial, testimony revealed O’Connor’s loaded a single bullet into the gun, pointed it 2 feet from Parent and squeezed the trigger five times. Witnesses said O’Connor counted each time he pulled the trigger and on the fifth pull it fired the bullet into Parent.
Also during trial testimony, two gun experts stated that the gun had a broken cylinder stopper that could have caused its chamber to advance unexpectedly.
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