Once in his life, fate stepped in and saved Nicholas Jozens.
The second time, fate put him in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Jozens survived the car crash that killed his mother when he was 6 months old. His grandmother took him out of his car seat to hold him moments before another vehicle smashed into the side of the car where he was sitting.
But on Sept. 12 of last year, Jozens was standing outside a Kaisertown bar with friends when a drunk and angry man who was looking for somebody else fired a shot that killed the 28-year-old Jozens.
That drunk and angry man appeared sober and remorseful Wednesday as appeared in State Supreme Court and was sentenced to 23 years in prison plus five years of post-release supervision after pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter.
“God knows I never intended to take Nick’s life,” Victor Irizarry told Justice Christopher J. Burns.
The shooting occurred after 4 a.m. near 1960 Clinton St. Irizarry, who had a barbershop nearby, had been in an argument at the bar earlier that led to a fight. He later said several men jumped and beat him before he went home. He then retrieved a gun and returned to settle the score.
Security video of the shooting shows someone grabbing at Irizarry outside the bar before he turns and fires one shot. It struck Jozens, who was standing near a utility pole, and the young man fell to the ground.
Irizarry has an extensive criminal record from when he was younger but says he has since tried to lead a Christian life. He was convicted in 2013 on federal counterfeiting charges.
So when he appeared in court Wednesday, he was sentenced as a second-felony offender.
Before hearing his sentence, Irizarry gave a lengthy statement about God’s will, life’s tribulations and forgiveness, mentioning his own losses of two children, including a 3-year-old who died of cancer, and of his brother and best friend to gang violence.
Finally, after about 10 minutes, Burns told Irizarry that his statement had strayed from an apology into a sermon and advised him to wrap it up.
Jozens’ sister, Julie Quinn, also had much to say to the court, describing what it was like for her and her brother to grow up without their mother.
“We had a bond that most siblings don’t have. We were survivors,” Quinn said.
She told how last year they “adopted” the stretch of highway where their mother died.
“It was one of the happiest days of my life,” she said.
Thirty-six days after that dedication, her brother was fatally shot.
“I live in fear every day of my life that the people I love most will be ripped away from me,” she told the judge, as she asked for the maximum possible sentence for Irizarry.
In contrast to the other speakers, Burns was succinct in his pronouncement.
“This was a point-blank shooting of an unarmed man, for which there can be no justification,” the judge said, handing down the sentence of 23 years in prison plus five years of post-release supervision.