A Delhi man was sentenced to seven years in prison for an accidental shooting that killed his 17-year-old friend.
Juan Carlos Gonzalez, 21, pleaded no contest on Jan. 29 to voluntary manslaughter with an enhancement for using a firearm as part of a plea deal reached with the Merced County District Attorney’s Office.
The charge stemmed from the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Delhi resident Saul Lopez at a party in the 22000 block of Bloss Road in Hilmar on Aug. 15, 2009.
Gonzalez, who was arrested two days after the shooting at a local dairy, told investigators the gun belonged to Lopez and that it accidentally went off while Gonzalez was holding it. Gonzalez said he and Lopez were friends and went to the party together.
The bullet from the .22 caliber revolver struck Lopez in the abdomen.
There were several witnesses to the shooting, some of whom recalled Gonzalez stating he was sorry, according to Merced County Superior Court records.
No attempts to get Lopez medical aid at the Hilmar home were made. Instead he was dropped off at the intersection of American and Lander avenues, near the McDonald’s.
Lopez was found stumbling and bleeding at the intersection by a cousin and friend that he had called for help.
The Merced County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene to find Lopez lying in the car. He was air-lifted to Doctors Medical Center, where he later died from his injury.
The sheriff’s department said early on in the investigation that most of the witnesses had gang affiliations and were uncooperative with investigators. Gonzalez is a documented gang member, according to the sheriff’s department.