Man jailed for killing his brother with faulty, illegal shotgun

September 2015

xxxxxxxxx, 21, died after being shot in Palmerston North on May 19, 2015.

“Adolescent recklessness” is to blame for two brothers playing with a loaded illegal firearm, leaving one of them dead and the other in prison.

Xxxxxxx , 21, will have to live the rest of his life knowing he killed his older brother, the High Court in Palmerston North heard on Friday.

At every court appearance he has had a reminder of the consequences of his actions, with the urn containing his brother’s ashes held either by him or a supporter.

xxxxxxxx was sentenced to two years’ and nine months’ imprisonment for the manslaughter of his older brother.

That urn was in court on Friday, when xxxxxxx was sentenced to two years’ and nine months’ imprisonment for the manslaughter of 21-year-old xxxxxxxx.
Justice David Collins said only “adolescent recklessness” could explain the actions which led to a totally avoidable death.

The two brothers were at xxxxxxx’s Bradford Place, Palmerston North home on May 19 when xxxxxxx came around. xxxxxxx, 18, had earlier found a 60-year-old sawn-off double-barrelled shotgun in an abandoned car.
He left the shotgun and three shotgun cartridges at the house. xxxxxxxx was also at the house, having travelled from Whangarei the previous day to visit family.

Many people at the home were waiting for benefit money to be paid so they could get dinner. The two brothers loaded the gun, then started posing with it and taking photos of each other. xxxxxxxx cocked the hammers, held the gun at his hip with his finger inside the trigger guard, and pointed it at his brother.

The right hammer then fired, the shot striking xxxxxxxx in the chest.
The gun recoiled and the second shot flew into the ceiling. The brothers’ mother ran into the room and started doing CPR, but xxxxxxxx died at the scene.

Testing by police found the right firing mechanism was faulty, needing only the slightest touch to discharge. Defence lawyer Steve Winter said xxxxxxxx lived at home with his mother, who was bringing up children and grandchildren on her own. “Life is not easy for this family.”

The photos leading up to the shooting showed two brothers enjoying each others company, Winter said.
“From outside looking in, no sense can be made of the decision-making of these two brothers on this fatal day,” Winter said.

“The only explanation is that this was a chance for these two brothers to escape reality, acting out a lifestyle that might seem great on the small screen or in music.

“The brothers were enjoying time together, pretending to be gangsters and taking photos of themselves.
“They were acting out fantasies one might expect from teenagers.
“Who got hurt here was mostly a matter of chance.”

Sentencings often put the emphasis on the victims, and xxxxxxxx was one in this situation, Winter said.

“His family don’t want him to go to prison. They want to take this journey together.

“It would be highly doubtful the victim would want his brother to go to jail.”
Winter asked the judge to impose home detention, but acknowledged it was “a big ask” in the circumstances.

The judge said the case was similar to that of xxxxxxxxx, who fatally shot his partner while posing for photos with a sawn-off shotgun.

While xxxxxxxxx told police about where the gun came from and did not have it for protection, it was still an illegal weapon. Furthermore, he loaded it, pointed it at his brother and had his fingers on the trigger.

“You broke every single safety rule.” (Emphasis added – ED)

xxxxxxxx had left school in his early teens, had 11 previous convictions, and was on a sentence of supervision at the time of his brother’s death. The judge gave a starting point of four-and-a-half years’ imprisonment, and made deductions for youth, an early guilty plea and remorse. He said he then had to consider if two years’ and nine months’ achieved the principles of sentencing.

“It will hold you accountable for the harm to did to xxxxx, your family and the community.

“It will promote responsibility, denounce similar conduct, deter others, assist in your rehabilitation, takes into the account the gravity of your offending and is the least restrictive outcome.”

xxxxxxxx threw his shoes from the dock into the body of the court before being led to the cells. His family wept. The case will properly wrap up in October, when xxxxxxx is sentenced for unlawfully possessing the sawn-off shotgun.