Retired firefighter sentenced 7 years for shooting man
Retired firefighter Donald Brown and Lascelles Reid had gotten into a confrontation during an argument over house renovations
By David Owens
The Hartford Courant
HARTFORD, Conn. — Donald Brown, a 56-year-old retired Hartford firefighter with a long record of service, was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison for what he said was a split-second decision to shoot a man in self defense nearly two years ago.
Hartford Superior Court Judge Frank M D’Addabbo Jr. told Brown and a courtroom packed with his family and friends that, despite a lifetime of making good decisions, he used poor judgment on April 24, 2015, when he drew his licensed 9mm handgun and fired a round into the abdomen of Lascelles Reid, 33.
The judge sentenced Brown to 14 years in prison, suspended after he serves seven years, and five years of probation. Brown plans to appeal the conviction.
Brown and Reid had gotten into a violent confrontation during an argument over renovations Reid was performing at a house Brown owns at 131 Hebron St. Brown, who received a disability retirement from the fire department for on-the-job injuries, told a Hartford jury that he feared for his life when he drew his pistol and fired at Reid. He said he fired in self-defense.
After 2½ hours of deliberations, the jury rejected the self-defense claim and convicted Brown of first-degree assault with a firearm. He faced up to 20 years in prison. Prosecutor Robin Krawczyk, citing the serious injuries Reid suffered, asked for 12 years.
“It’s easy for a gun owner to say I have a right to defend myself … but they have to know there are very specific rules as to self-defense,” Krawczyk told the judge. You can’t just shoot someone because they are coming at you, Krawczyk said.
Sixteen people spoke on behalf of Brown at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing and 46 wrote letters asking the judge for leniency. Several former firefighters, including retired chiefs Nelson K. Carter Sr. and Charles Teale, told the judge that Brown was an outstanding firefighter who served the city well.
Carter told the judge that Brown was trained to make snap decisions to save lives, which he did the day of the shooting. Teale called Brown “an exceptional firefighter” and said his disability did not allow him to run away from Reid.
“He can make tremendous contributions to our society, but he can’t do it from inside a prison,” Teale said.
Although the jury rejected the self-defense claim, Brown and his attorney, Donald Freeman, brought it up in their remarks to the judge. Brown could not run from Reid, Freeman said.
Brown said that his life was in danger from a “violent and enraged individual” and that because of his disabilities he could not escape.
He said he was sorry for what happened, apologized to Reid and his own family and said he wished he could take back what happened that day.
The judge said that Brown had no criminal record, a history of service, immediately called 911 after the shooting and cooperated with police. He also noted the many people who spoke up for Brown. But on the day of the shooting, Brown made a bad decision, the judge said.
An emotionally charged incident and a gun were a “toxic and nearly fatal mix,’ D’Addabbo said. “I have to consider the societal impact. It is gun violence. Even with the proper permit it is gun violence.”
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