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'I loved Niko:' Syracuse teen who accidentally shot, killed best friend sentenced

Dwight Murray, 18, cries in court as he's sentenced for accidentally shooting and killing his best friend (CNYCentral photo).

A Syracuse teenager who accidentally shot and killed his best friend has been sentenced on manslaughter charges after an emotional hearing in court Monday.

Dwight Murray, then 17, shot and killed Niko Santana, 18, on February 7, 2018. Prosecutors said Santana and Murray bought a gun in “poor working condition,” and it went off while Murray was trying modify or test it.

The bullet hit and killed Santana.

"It was so loud. I was sitting on the couch with my two grandsons," said Santana's mother, who spoke in court and brought an urn carrying her son's ashes. "It took a couple seconds, then my son came out holding his chest. The last words my son said to me was 'Mom, call 911. I'm shot.'"

She said her son was no angel, but did not deserve to die.

“I bring my son here for two reasons. Not for negativity, but no matter what, Niko and Dwight were inseparable and Niko should be here next to Dwight. The second, so everybody can see my everyday reality.”

Santana’s mother said she still loves Murray, but felt he should face some type of punishment for killing her son.

“I will never see his beautiful face or smile or hear his voice. I will never hear him say, ‘Mom, I'm hungry. Go make me a plate.’”

While Santana’s mother spoke to Judge Matthew Doran, Murray broke down in tears.

“I loved Niko,” Murray said when asked if he wanted to address the court. “That was my best friend. I'd be with him every day. I would never do anything to hurt him. I think about him every day.”

Murray’s lawyer told Judge Doran that the young men bought the gun to protect themselves from gang members pressuring them to join.

The judge sentenced Murray to two to six years in prison, denying him youthful offender status because of his "prior history in the criminal justice system." He called the magnitude of this offense “almost incomprehensible.”

“There’s very little that I could think of that could be worse than this," Judge Doran said. "For everyone involved."

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