An 18-year-old Frederick man was sentenced to seven years in prison Thursday as the friend he shot looked on during an emotional hearing in Frederick County Circuit Court.
Dylan Jesse Gray broke down in tears as he turned to the victim, who still has the bullet lodged in his chest. It will be removed in a future surgery.
"I'm so sorry," Gray said.
"Why, man?" the victim asked, wanting to know why Gray fired the shot into his upper chest.
"I made a careless mistake," Gray responded.
"I'll send you a letter," the victim said.
"I'm sorry," Gray said again.
And then the victim said, "It's OK."
Assistant State's Attorney Kirsten Brown said the case was "a sad situation all around." Gray and the victim, who was 16 at the time of the Dec. 19 shooting, were close friends and planned to hang out that afternoon.
According to police and prosecutors, Gray and some friends were playing video games at his home when the victim called to say he was coming over. When the 16-year-old arrived, he knocked on the front door. After no one came to the door, he knocked on the windows.
Gray told police he became annoyed with the 16-year-old. He grabbed a .32-caliber semi-automatic handgun from his bedroom and went to the front door, according to charging documents.
Gray believed the gun was not loaded and intended only to scare the friend, but instead fired a shot into his upper right chest, according to court records and testimony.
"I cocked it and aimed and pulled the trigger and all the sudden my ears were ringing and my friend has a bullet in him," Gray wrote in a statement contained in the documents. "I honestly can't believe I did this."
When police arrived, the victim told them he was shot down the street by a group of teens he didn't know. That story quickly fell apart as police found the shell casing near Gray's front door.
Another of Gray's friends, Cory Aaron Nowalk, brought the gun to Gray's home, and disposed of it after the shooting, prosecutors said.
In a juvenile court hearing, Nowalk pleaded "involved" to the crime of accessory after the fact. In juvenile proceedings, a person does not plead guilty or not guilty, but admits or denies involvement in an offense.
"These guys had absolutely no business whatsoever having this gun," Brown said Thursday, noting that photos of Gray posing with it were found on his cellphone.
Defense attorney Chad Weddle said Gray understood the enormity of the case and is grateful his friend didn't die.
Gray pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree assault.
Dwyer sentenced Gray to seven years in prison, with an additional 18-year suspended sentence. Dwyer recommended placement in a youthful offender treatment program.
After his release, Gray will have to serve three years of supervised probation. If he violates the terms of the probation he could be sent to prison for the 18-year suspended sentence.
Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines.