YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — An East Side man who pleaded guilty to leaving a handgun out that his nephew used to wound himself was sentenced today to two years probation and 10 days in the Mahoning County jail.
Visiting Judge Thomas Pokorny is allowing Luis Vazquez, 21, of McBride Street, to serve the jail time on weekends so it does not interfere with his job.
Vazquez pleaded guilty Feb. 23 in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to a fifth degree felony charge of improperly furnishing a firearm to a minor.
The sentence was agreed upon by Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Day and defense attorney Lou DeFabio and Judge Pokorny upheld their recommendation.
Police and prosecutors said Vazquez was the owner of a handgun that the boy got ahold of on March 8, 2021, and shot himself in the stomach. Vazquez shared the apartment with the boy and his mother.
Vazquez was not in the apartment when the boy shot himself.
The boy was first taken to St. Elizabeth Health Center before being flown by helicopter to Akron Children’s Hospital. He has recovered.
When the boy shot himself, he was with his mother, Zulimar Alicea Vazquez, 23. She pleaded guilty in January to a charge of endangering children and was sentenced to a year in prison.
Day said Vazquez was not in the apartment but he left the gun in his room on a dresser where the boy could easily get it.
“He violated his duty as a responsible firearm owner,” Day said.
Through an interpreter, Vazquez said he normally puts the gun in a lockbox and locks the door to the room, but he was in a hurry that day because he was getting his car fixed and he did not put the gun in the box.
“My mistake was leaving the gun on a dresser instead of a safe place,” Vazquez said. “I feel terrible. It was not my intention to hurt my nephew.”
The boy’s mother went into the room and the boy followed her, which was when he was shot.
DeFabio told Judge Pokorny his client had the gun as well as another one for protection because they live in a rough part of Youngstown. In January 2019, a woman in the same apartment complex was killed by several men firing guns into her apartment.
“This gun was purchased first and foremost to protect his family,” DeFabio said.
DeFabio asked Judge Pokorny to not sentence his client to any jail time. He said Vazquez has no criminal record, has a job and spent 33 days in jail after he was indicted and arrested.
Judge Pokorny said it is “only by the grace of God” the boy was not more seriously hurt, and he noted that because of the felony conviction, Vazquez is no longer allowed to legally own a gun.