MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Brandon Lapeikis walked into a Miami-Dade courtroom Thursday and admitted to shooting and killing his friend, Christian Salazar, in December 2013.
It was at Lapeikis’ North Miami Beach home. The young men, both 19, were watching Monday Night Football – Seattle versus New Orleans – and playing with what they thought was an empty gun.
“The defendant, Mr. Lapeikis, grabbed the firearm not knowing that it was loaded, put it to Mr. Salazar’s head, and pulled the trigger,” Assistant State Attorney Devon Helfmeyer said in court Thursday. “Unfortunately, it was loaded, causing Mr. Salazar to die.”
Prosecutors came to be persuaded that the shooting was an unintended accident.
Lapeikis’ call to 911 was desperate and wrenching.
“I just shot my friend by mistake in the head,” a distraught Lapeikas told the 911 operator.
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,” the young man said, his voice choking.
He pled guilty to manslaughter Thursday. Through an interpreter the dead youth’s mom, Wendy Jaramillo, addressed the court.
“It’s been horrible. He was my only son. My life has been completely changed,” the mother said.
Judge Diane Ward said she felt the mother’s heartache.
“It is always horrible when a parent outlives their child,” the judge said.
The dead teen’s mom spoke to her son’s killer.
“I don’t hold anything against him,” she said. “I deeply feel for what happened. I hope God will bless him.”
Lapeikas spoke directly to the victim’s family.
“I would like to apologize for everything that happened on that very sad day,” he said.”I honestly wish that it could have been me.”
The quality of mercy was not strained in this case. The dead youth’s family agreed to a plea deal that will see Pakeinis do one year in prison, followed by 10 years probation.
The victim’s aunt, Erica Atbulu, urged Lapeikas to make wise use of his stay in prison.
“You have a chance. You have one year, and then you will be out,” the aunt said.”Do something good for your life, for you, for Christian.”
Defense attorney Michael Catalano said that he has not seen as compassionate a family in his 32 years of practice, thanking them for their forgiveness of his client.
Catalano said the take away from this tragedy is clear.
“This whole thing is the classical lesson of why on earth would anyone play with a gun? It’s not a toy.”
As part of his probation Lapeikis must perform community service every year on the anniversary of the day he killed his good friend.