Man gets 45-day work sentence in shooting

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A Parachute man who apologized Tuesday to the parents of a friend he accidentally shot to death in January was ordered to do 45 days of service on a Garfield County Community Corrections work crew as part of his sentence.

Nathanael Rice, 26, also received two years of supervised probation and must pay more than $14,000 in restitution and do 60 hours of community service related to gun safety education for the death of Jeremy Caywood, 30, in Battlement Mesa.

Rice accidentally shot his close friend while checking to see if a gun was loaded. He pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide.

“I would just like to apologize to Mr. and Mrs. Caywood for that accident. I’m — I’m so sorry,” Rice said haltingly, looking directly at Caywood’s parents and extending an arm toward them as he spoke during his sentencing hearing Tuesday.

Caywood’s father, Mike, told the court that he and his wife initially wanted Rice to spend his life in prison for taking their son’s life, but later considered the fact that they were friends and the shooting was unintentional.

Still, he “failed miserably” in his responsibility to handle a firearm safely, Caywood said.

“Jeremy paid the ultimate price so that Mr. Rice might learn a lesson, the lesson that guns are not toys,” he said.

“... Mr. Rice’s actions have left (Jeremy’s) three young children searching for answers that only time will be able to answer for them.”

Rice and Caywood were with friends around midnight Jan. 13 when Rice offered to escort a 16-year-old female who planned to walk home and decided to take his gun as a safety measure. He told authorities he pulled the gun’s slide back to check if the weapon was loaded and it discharged when the slide slid forward.

Prosecutors say there is no indication that bravado, anger or substance abuse was involved.

Rice’s attorney, Paul Frinak, said Rice acknowledges violating the safety rule of never pointing a gun in a direction a person doesn’t intend to shoot.

Rice’s sentence will enable him to continue working in an oilfield job. He’ll do work crew service on his days off but be able to go home at night.

While Frinak described Rice as quiet and said he didn’t know how comfortable he would be speaking publicly about gun safety, Senior Judge David Lass decided that was an appropriate requirement.

Jeff Cheney, assistant district attorney for the 9th Judicial District, told Lass, “I think Mr. Rice has a story to tell that can benefit a lot of people and perhaps save lives.”


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