Skyler Nicoulin

Skyler Nicoulin, 22, was sentenced to two years in prison on a negligent homicide conviction for shooting his best friend on Monday. Nicoulin said the shooting was accidental.

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Skyler Nicoulin had one request after a New Orleans judge sentenced him Monday to two years in prison for what he said was the accidental shooting death of his best friend inside their Gentilly residence last year. He wanted to hug Miguel Marrero Jr.'s mother.

LaRewa Warren agreed, and the two exchanged a tearful embrace before deputies led Nicoulin off to serve his time on a conviction of negligent homicide through criminal negligence.

Criminal District Court Judge Laurie White also sentenced Nicoulin to three years of probation after his prison term ends.

The sentence concluded a case that White described as a tragedy for everyone involved. Nicoulin, now 22, and Marrero were longtime friends who attended Grace King High School together.

“This is one of the saddest type of cases that courts will ever deal with,” the judge said.

Nicoulin told police that his gun accidentally fired on the afternoon of July 14, 2017, after he placed it on a dresser in the residence in the 6300 block of Cameron Boulevard, near the University of New Orleans.

Marrero, his 20-year-old roommate, was shot in the chest. Paramedics took him to University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Although prosecutors originally charged Nicoulin with manslaughter, they agreed to amend the charge to negligent homicide when he pleaded guilty last month. The decision on sentencing was left up to White.

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said it was appropriate to amend the charge in light of the lack of evidence that Nicoulin shot his friend intentionally.

In court on Monday, Nicoulin wore a light blue shirt and a tie as he gave an emotional apology to Marrero’s mother. He said he accepted “full responsibility” for his longtime friend’s death.

“Me and Miguel, we wasn’t just friends. We was more like brothers,” he said. “We went from boys to men.”

Nicoulin said that on the day of the killing, he was taken to Police Department headquarters for questioning. It was only after he asked over and over what had happened to Marrero that they told him his friend was dead, he said.

“It felt like a part of me died when he passed away,” Nicoulin said. “I think about him every day. When I wake up, when I go to work, when I go to sleep.”

Defense attorney Kyle Schonekas noted that his client had no previous criminal record. It would not do any good to send Nicoulin to prison, he said.

White said she had reviewed body-worn camera video from the officers who responded to a 911 call about the shooting. The video showed Nicoulin attempting to perform CPR on his friend while officers searched the residence for the gun.

It was “very troubling” that the police officers did not attempt to render aid to Marrero themselves, White said. The Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the officers’ actions.

Yet White said Nicoulin’s actions were “beyond careless; they were beyond just a mistake.”

“You had a loaded handgun in your hand and your best friend was in front of you,” she said. “I think your gunplay resulted in the ruination of your young life, and I think it ended another.”

Warren expressed her thanks to the District Attorney’s Office and the judge in a statement.

“I would like to credit Judge Laurie White on being thorough in her evaluation of the case and for hearing my concerns and addressing them accordingly. She gave merit and significance to me and my son's story, and I am truly grateful for that,” Warren said.

Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.

msledge@theadvocate.com | (504) 636-7432