Sergio J. Suarez has a warning for people who think BB guns are just toys that can be fired indiscriminately at human beings.
“Believe what it says on the packaging,” Suarez said Thursday in Pierce County Superior Court. “They can cause mortal injury.”
The 36-year-old Tacoma man then was sentenced by Judge Grant Blinn to two years, nine months in prison in the death of Dustin Kopp.
Suarez admitted firing a BB gun at Kopp during an argument Oct. 17 over some belongings. The projectile pierced Kopp’s heart, and the 32-year-old man later died.
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The two lived under opposite ends of the state Route 16 overpass near South Cedar Street at the time.
Suarez went about his business after the shooting, not knowing he’d mortally wounded Kopp, who went by “Red.”
He swore in court Thursday that he never intended to kill the younger man and was floored to learn he’d died.
“They weren’t the best of friends, but he had no ill will toward Red at the time,” defense attorney Jason Johnson said of his client.
Suarez, who had no previous felony record, cooperated fully with detectives when they arrested him in Kopp’s death.
“I’d like to apologize to him. I’d like to apologize to his family. I’d like to apologize to my own family,” Suarez said in court Thursday. “It’s just a freak accident.”
Deputy Prosecutor Jared Ausserer agreed, calling Kopp’s death “bizarre.” Ausserer confessed to shooting his own brother with a BB gun when they were kids.
“I don’t think for one minute think Mr. Suarez intended to kill Mr. Kopp,” the deputy prosecutor said.
Ausserer, who originally charged Suarez with second-degree murder, reduced the charge to second-degree manslaughter once all the facts were known, and that’s the charge Suarez pleaded guilty to just before his sentencing.