FORT HOOD — A Fort Hood soldier convicted of manslaughter for accidentally shooting a fellow soldier in the face while attempting to cure him of the hiccups was sentenced to 3½ years in prison Thursday.
Spc. Patrick Edward Myers, 27, pleaded guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of 22-year-old Pfc. Isaac Lawrence Young at their home Sept. 23.
The two soldiers, both members of the 154th Transportation Company, 180th Transportation Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command, and good friends, had been drinking and watching football that Sunday when Young began to hiccup loudly.
In an ill-fated attempt to rid Young of his hiccups by scaring him, Myers pointed a pistol at him. “I yelled, ‘Stop hiccuping,’” Myers said. “He started laughing. I started laughing. He knew I was joking. That’s when I pulled the trigger.”
Fellow roommate Spc. Thomas Perlman said Myers appeared to be in shock when he realized the bullet he had fired was not the dummy round he believed it to be. The bullet struck Young just under his left eye, and within minutes the Ash Grove, Mo., native was dead.
“This is possibly the most preventable and least sensible death the government can think of,” prosecuting Capt. Bill Wicks told the court.
Myers’ sentencing hearing included several emotional moments Thursday, with family members of both the defendant and Young testifying.
Young’s 17-year-old sister Elizabeth called the loss of her sibling “devastating.”
“It’s hard to explain when someone you think you’ll be growing up with is no more,” she said.
His family described him as a natural born soldier who wanted to join the military since he was a young child. He would take several of his young sisters out into the woods, where they would build forts and he would command them through Army-style drills.
“The person he was supposed to be was taken from us,” Young’s mother, Grace Young, testified. “Part of me died with him.”
Presiding judge Col. Gregory Gross stripped Myers of his rank and ordered him dishonorably discharged upon completion of his sentence.
In exchange for the plea, Army prosecutors dismissed a murder charge against Myers.
The manslaughter charge carried a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, but a cavalcade of 10 character witnesses, letters and Myers’ enrollment into substance abuse classes likely led the judge to give him a less severe sentence.
The defense called six soldiers from the 154th Transportation Brigade who all attested to the good work performance Myers exhibited.
“He’s the hardest working soldier I ever met,” Sgt. Mary Mendoza, Myers’ team leader for a time, told the court.
Myers, a Spartanburg, S.C., native, told the court in an unsworn statement that he recognized he has an alcohol problem. Whiskey and several empty beers were found alongside the gun he used when he shot Young.
He also acknowledged that his life will now take a dramatically different course. The soldier who was working on becoming a commissioned officer and had aspirations of joining the Army band as a saxophonist now said he would just be happy to have the job at the car wash he had right after high school. “I just want to support my family,” he said.
“No one can downplay the tragedy here,” defense attorney Capt. Laura Loomis told the court.