Penn Hills man to stand trial in shooting death of close friend

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Penn Hills resident Damien Franklin, 21, will stand trial in the shooting death of a friend, Nathan Hurrell, 18, District Judge Anthony Saveikis ruled Friday..

The two men and others were at the Penn Hills residence of the parents of Mr. Franklin's girlfriend on the night of June 18, according to police.

They were sitting on the porch when Mr. Hurrell allegedly picked up a 12-gauge shotgun, one of four guns present, and pointed it at Mr. Franklin. Mr. Franklin then picked up another gun,, a .223-caliber rifle, but noticed it was loaded, said his attorney, Jeffrey Wasak, at Mr. Franklin‘‍s preliminary hearing Friday.

He put it down and pulled back the slide, but the weapon fired, the bullet striking Mr. Hurrell in the head, Mr. Wasak said.

Mr. Hurrell died early the next morning. He had just graduated from Winchester Thurston School and planned to attend DePaul University in Chicago.

Lori McKeel, a detective with the Allegheny County police, testified that Mr. Franklin gave different and conflicting versions of what happened. In some, he said his finger had been on the trigger of the gun when it discharged, but in others, he said it was not. But according to Detective McKeel, he never said he was in the process of determining whether the gun was loaded when Mr. Hurrell was shot.

Assistant District Attorney April Cressler said in her concluding statement that what was consistent in all the versions of the story was that Mr. Franklin found the gun to be heavy, and therefore should have known it was loaded. She termed his actions as "grossly negligent."

Mr. Wasak said he believed the evidence was insufficient for homicide or manslaughter charges,

"It was a tragic accident, but it just doesn't rise to the level of criminal," Mr. Wasak said.

Mr. Wasak also said that his client had been experiencing emotional and psychological trauma after the passing of Mr. Hurrell, whom Mr. Franklin called one of his closest friends.

Ms. McKeel, however, said Mr. Franklin did not seem particularly distraught during her conversations with him.

In delivering his decision to uphold a homicide charge, Judge Saveikis expressed exasperation that three of the guns had just been returned to Mr. Franklin that day by the police. Mr. Franklin had reported them stolen in 2012.

Wesley Yiin: or 412-263-1723. Twitter: @YiinYangYale


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