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Killer gets 20-year prison sentence; Gunman took one life, wounded young girl and another man

The gunman in a triple shooting that killed one of the victims and wounded a 4-year-old-girl was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years in prison.

Gregory L. Ward, 24, who had pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter, apologized in a packed courtroom in the Erie County Courthouse.

"It wasn't supposed to happen like this," Ward said of the shooting.

Joshua J. Korczykowski was struck and killed by gunfire from an AK-47 on April 10, 2010, during his late-night attempt to buy marijuana on Playter Street in the city's Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood, authorities have said.

Korczykowski, 26, of the Town of Tonawanda, brought along his 4-year-old daughter and his brother-in-law, who also were hit by gunfire.

The brother-in-law, Randy Zawadski, was shot in the leg as he was leaving a house on Playter Street. The girl was in the back seat of the car. Both Zawadski and the girl have recovered from their wounds.

Police said Korczykowski tried to speed away but ended up crashing into a house. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

"This is about as tragic as it gets," Erie County Judge Kenneth F. Case said during the sentencing.

The 20-year sentence was part of a plea deal Ward reached with prosecutors.

The judge said he found no reason to change the length of incarceration agreed to in the plea deal.

First-degree manslaughter is punishable by a prison term of five to 25 years.

The victims were not the intended targets of Ward's gunfire, said Andrew C. LoTempio, Ward's defense attorney.

Ward and his associates had gone to a backyard looking for the weapon. When they found it, they were leaving the yard when somebody yelled, and Ward thought he was being confronted by someone.

Ward was shooting at somebody he thought was targeting him -- not the victims in this case -- but a stray bullet struck Korczykowski, and the fragments of other bullets struck the girl, LoTempio said.

"The victims were shot by accident while he was shooting at another individual," LoTempio said.

Ward admitted firing the rifle but denied targeting the victims.

"I know he's sick over what happened here," LoTempio said. "He understands he has a sentence coming to him."

LoTempio called the shootings the result of Ward's lifestyle.

"He's spent a lot of time on the streets," LoTempio said.

During a victim impact statement before the judge, Cynthia Korczykowski said her son's death dealt a terrible blow to her family.

His daughter, whom Korczykowski described as "Daddy's little princess," has a memory of watching "her father bleed to death right in front of her," Cynthia Korczykowski said.

"Why should the last memory of her father be so tragic?" she asked.

She read a poem the girl wrote about missing her father, which included a reference to him as "an angel watching over me."

Korczykowski described her son as a man who worked every day to support his family and attended church on Sundays.

"I never imagined I'd be in so much pain," she said, and asked Case to show no leniency.

"We have to go to a rock in a cemetery to be with Josh," she said.

Prosecutor James F. Bargnesi, chief of the Homicide Bureau, called the sentence "an excellent resolution for this terrible tragedy."

Ward fled Buffalo after the shooting, but police eventually found him near Atlanta.