Last October, two young men found a loaded handgun at the one of their parents’ home and decided to check it out. They took out the ammunition clip to be safe. They didn’t check the chamber.
The lone bullet left in the weapon struck Michael McHerrin, 19, in the head when his friend, Brandon Robinson, 26, pulled the trigger. Robinson tried to help his friend and called 911, but the wound was fatal.
On Monday afternoon, Robinson, a Buffalo resident, was sentenced in Erie County Court to six months in jail plus five years of probation after pleading guilty to criminally negligent homicide in McHerrin’s death.
“Mr. Robinson, you didn’t even perceive the risk of death,” Judge Kenneth F. Case said before pronouncing sentence. “You’re not a registered permit holder, you didn’t go to the safety course.
“You didn’t realize how dangerous firearms can be because you didn’t know what you were doing with it.”
The gun’s owner had a permit.
Members of Robinson’s and McHerrin’s family were in the courtroom, and, before he was sentenced, Robinson apologized to all of them.
“I’ve known Michael since he was 12 years old. I would never hurt him intentionally,” Robinson said. “I am truly sorry.”
Although no one from McHerrin’s family chose to speak in court before the sentencing, friends and family did write letters to the judge about how they were affected by his death.
“I read your letters three times,” the judge said. “Believe me, my heart was breaking. I’m not sure that it isn’t harder to lose someone like this, when it is unintentional, than when it is deliberate.
Case called the death of McHerrin “foolish and senseless” but said he believed that it was an accident. Nevertheless, he decided not to follow the recommendation of the Probation Department and the request of Robinson’s attorney, Frank M. Bogulski, that Robinson not be given any jail time. Bogulski pointed out that Robinson has no criminal record and that he works two jobs to support his two children.
“My concern is that the consequences of playing with this firearm are so significant, I don’t believe probation is entirely sufficient,” Case said.
The judge settled for the lower end of the sentencing range for the Class E felony, which had a range of probation to up to four years in prison.