A man is handcuffed Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Metro file photo A man is handcuffed Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Metro file photo

 

A teenager who accidentally killed his best friend in January while messing with a shotgun was sentenced to six to 12 months in prison at the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center today.

 

"I'm so sorry," said Hector Echevarria, 19, who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in April. "I would never do this to Bill. That was my brother. I'm so sorry."

 

As members of his family broke down in loud sobs, Echevarria was led away into lock-up after being sentenced.

 

Judge Benjamin Lerner sentenced Echevarria to serve the prison term on work release and ordered that the Philadelphia Prison System seek to allow Echevarria to continue his study of auto-body repair and painting at a technical school as part of the work release.

 

Lerner also sentenced Echevarria to three years post-release probation and to serve 150 hours of community service in an area where he could speak to other young people about the danger of firearms.

Echevarria never denied his guilt in the shooting death of Billy Hopkins, 18, on January 21 and has been free on bail while criminal charges were pending.. He was showing Hopkins the shotgun when he accidentally fired it at him.

"I have no doubt this was an accident," Lerner said before handing down sentence. "The last thing Hector wanted was for any harm to come to Billy."

Echevarria was holding a shotgun on Jan. 21 inside his Olney home near the intersection of Mascher Street and Tabor Avenue, which the two teenagers were examining when the gun went off, striking Hopkins in the chest. Hopkins was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Prosecutor Richard Sax did not seek a specific sentence and left that to Lerner's discretion.

"He had cooperated and confessed immediately. He waived all hearings to which he was entitled, and I feel he has shown appropriate amount of remorse since the first time I laid eyes on him," Sax said.

However, Echevarria previously stated in an interview with the Daily News that he emptied all the shells from the shotgun onto a bed before showing it to Hopkins and pointing it towards his friend.

Sax introduced police records prior to the sentencing that found three shells were found on the bed, but three shells were still inside the gun after it discharged.

Check back for more as this story develops.