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MAN WHO SHOT MOTHER SENTENCED

A LaSalle Avenue man who inadvertently shot his mother when he was trying to shoot someone else during a friend's funeral Mass was sentenced today to 4 to 12 years in prison.

Travis Birdsong, 22, who pleaded guilty in August to felony gun and drug-trafficking charges, apologized to his mother, Verna Kennedy, after he was sentenced by State Supreme Court Justice Richard Kloch.

Birdsong has been in jail since his arrest following the shooting at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church on Northampton Street April 24.

Kloch told Birdsong he was lucky his mother risked her life and intervened in the matter. The judge chastised him, saying there was "no reason" to bring a gun into a church and said he was giving him a break on the prison time he faces due to his youth and the chance he can change his lifestyle.

He said that unless Birdsong changes his behavior, he would "end up dead in the street."

Just before the start of a late morning Mass for Birdsong's friend Thomas Graham, 19 -- himself the victim of a shooting in his Shirley Avenue home -- Birdsong pulled out a handgun when he apparently saw a man who had been ordered to stay away from the funeral service. Kennedy grabbed for the gun and was shot in the thigh as she struggled with her son, prosecutor Christopher Gresham said.

The day of the shooting, Sister Philip Marie of St. Martin's said of Kennedy's act: "That mother saved other people's lives."

Rushed to Erie County Medical Center after the church incident about 11 a.m. that morning, Kennedy was treated and released and has fully recovered, prosecutors said. Birdsong was arrested hours after the incident.

Deputy District Attorney Lawrence M. Schwegler and prosecutor Christopher Gresham said Birdsong had faced a combined prison term of up to 19 years on the church and drug cases.

Birdsong was arrested in his car near his home last April 2 when police found him in possession of 67 bags of crack cocaine.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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