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Monday, February 25, 2013

"The men apparently believed they were safe because they could see the bullet but forgot that the loaded chamber advances when the trigger is pulled"

Man sentenced 7 years for drinking-game shooting death of friend

A Battle Creek man who shot and killed his best friend will spend at least seven years in prison.
Samuel Castanier, 34, was sentenced to 7 to 22½ years in prison after pleading guilty last month to manslaughter and being a felon in possession of a firearm in the Sept. 19 shooting death of Nicholas Ullrich, 34, of Battle Creek.
The men were drinking and playing with a gun when Castanier pointed a .357 caliber revolver at Ullrich and pulled the trigger.
“I love him dearly,” Castanier told Calhoun County Circuit Judge James Kingsley.
The two men were friends since childhood, Castanier said, and he promised Ullrich’s father he would take care of him.
“The hardest part is his father trusted me and now I have been responsible for his death. I let his father down.”
Castanier called the shooting “the biggest tragedy of my life and it’s almost unbearable to know I was responsible.”
Battle Creek police said at the time that Castanier, Ullrich and a third man were celebrating a birthday and were drinking while playing with at least one handgun.
Investigators said the men often played a game of loading a revolver with one slug, spinning the cylinder and then pointing it at another player before pulling the trigger.
Lt. Austin Simons said the men apparently believed they were safe because they could see the bullet but forgot that the loaded chamber advances when the trigger is pulled.
Assistant Prosecutor Dan Buscher said the investigation shows the men played the game hundreds of times.
“He pointed a loaded gun at his friend and pulled the trigger,” Buscher said. “This was an accident but it was a death waiting to happen.”
Defense attorney Dan Rhodes said his client will have to live with the death of his best friend.
“That is something that will never go away,” Rhodes said. “They were screwing around with guns and alcohol and it is a prime example of what happens when you mix the two.”
Ullrich’s stepfather, Mike Decker, said the family knows the shooting was an accident but he also called it a “very sad, tragic, stupid event that didn’t have to happen.
“I truly believe it was an accident but what I don’t understand is why does someone put a bullet in the chamber of a gun and show a lack of respect by pointing a loaded gun at a good friend and pulls the trigger.”
Kingsley told Castanier he also believes the shooting was an accident.
“And you have many good qualities,” the judge said. “You are a good neighbor, you help the elderly and you are a doting father to your 10-year-old daughter.”
But then the judge listed Castanier’s criminal record of one felony for making a bomb threat as a juvenile and multiple charges resulting in 11 misdemeanor convictions as an adult including domestic violence, assault, vandalism, and drunken driving.
Kinglsey cited a support letter from a minister that said “one of Sam’s worries was bringing up his daughter in the world we live in today.”
“Well,” Kingsley concluded, “if you look in the mirror, that is your world.”
Written by
Trace Christenson
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