Bucks County man sentenced for shooting sister's friend with air rifle

BRISTOL, Pa. (WPVI) -- A Bucks County man has been sentenced for shooting a teen with an air rifle.

A judge ordered 28-year-old James Stanley to serve five to ten years in state prison.

Authorities say the Bristol Borough man shot his teenage sister's best friend in the chest with the air rifle in May 2017.

The 16-year-old victim survived, but the pellet from Stanley's air rifle was found lodged beside her heart.

Police say Stanley initially lied to investigators, saying he was shooting at targets in his backyard when a pellet ricocheted off a fence and struck the victim. He admitted enlisting members of his family to repeat the lie on his behalf.

Investigators later determined that the shooting took place in Stanley's living room. The victim told police that she and Stanley's sister were sitting on a couch looking at concert tickets online when she saw Stanley pointing the air rifle at her.

"I yelled, Don't shoot me,' and he pulled the trigger and laughed at me as I was gasping for air," the victim wrote in a statement that was read by the girl's grandmother during Stanley's sentencing on July 5.

"It felt like James and his family sat around and came up with a lie to tell so that he wouldn't get in trouble," the girl's statement continued. "Which in turn held off my care for over an hour."

Because the pellet remains lodged in the pericardium around her heart, the girl said, she has constant heaviness and pain in her chest.

"I will always be a cardiac patient," she wrote. "Things I never had to do before are now things I have to do to help me live. Always checking my heart for fluid and making sure that the bullet or pellet didn't move."

Stanley told the judge that the shooting wasn't intentional, and that he didn't know the gun was primed to fire. To the victim he said, "I love you like a sister and I always will."

Stanley said he lied about how the shooting occurred, and had his family lie as well, because he was scared.

"It's the biggest mistake of my life," he said. "I regret it every day."

Stanley said he didn't realize the gun was pointed at the girl when it went off.

"I'm a fidgety person," he said. "We were talking and I guess I was playing with the safety and it went off. I didn't realize I hit the trigger."

Bucks County Detective Jack Slattery testified at the hearing that it would take much more force on the trigger than an accidental touch to make the gun fire.

"This wasn't an accident, your honor," Deputy District Attorney Thomas C. Gannon told the judge. "This doesn't just happen."
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