Shooter receives maximum sentence
Thomas O’Connor, a 24-year-old convicted of involuntary manslaughter in August for shooting and killing a South Lake Tahoe boy, was sentenced to four years in prison Monday, the maximum sentence for the crime.
Bradley Parent was 16 when gun games went awry in a D Street apartment and he got shot in the heart by O’Connor from just a few feet away. O’Connor, an off-duty security guard, had been issued a gun by High Sierra Patrol.
According to court testimony, O’Connor put one bullet in the gun, pointed it at Parent, and squeezed the trigger five times. He wanted to show Parent and other teen-agers in his apartment that he could squeeze the trigger without firing the weapon.
On the fifth pull the gun went off. It had a broken cylinder stopper and the chamber had advanced farther than O’Connor anticipated.
O’Connor addressed Parent’s mother in court before the sentencing.
“I want to apologize for the loss of your son and express to you how bad I feel,” he said, crying as he read from a crumpled sheet of paper. “He went from being my friend, to my best friend to someone I would call my little brother. Every time I see a BMX bike I think of Brad. I every time I see a video game I think of Brad. Every time I see you and your family I see the pain I caused you. I’m not asking for forgiveness. I’m asking you to understand I carry the pain of Brad’s death with me every day of my life.”
Parent’s mother, Loretta Ripley, who cried while O’Connor read his letter, then read her own letter to him.
“We will never have a normal life again. No one has the right to decide for someone else when they will die. He should be in prison for the time he took from Brad – which is the rest of his life. My heart aches for him constantly. A part of me has been ripped out.”
El Dorado County Superior Court Presiding Judge Suzanne Kingsbury compared O’Connor’s actions to that of a drunk driver who kills without intention.
“There are no winners in this case, only losers,” she said. “I don’t think Mr. O’Connor intended to shoot anybody but the only time a bullet got in the gun is after Mr. O’Connor put it in. To say this is poor judgment is just a gross understatement.”
Kingsbury chastised O’Connor for ignoring any gun safety courses he may have been given by High Sierra Patrol and for hanging out with people who were years younger than he.
Ripley wasn’t satisfied with the sentence but was relieved that O’Connor would be going from jail, where he has been for 601 days, to prison.
“At least he’s out of here, out of Tahoe, and we won’t have to deal with him anymore.”
In an unrelated case, O’Connor is next expected in court Friday to be arraigned on charges of having unlawful sex with a minor.
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