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Published: Tuesday, 4/28/2009

Man pleads no contest in fatal shooting of teen

James Leroux and Luis Ruiz were having a typical night hanging out in a group - talking, playing video games, showing off.

But what made Dec. 14 different, Assistant Lucas County Prosecutor Andy Lastra said, was that Leroux had a gun. And with a single bullet, Leroux shot the 16-year-old Ruiz youth in the chest, killing him.

"Mr. Leroux pulled the trigger and fired," Mr. Lastra said, adding that although there was no evidence Leroux intended to hit anyone, his reckless actions caused a death. "The victim slumped in his chair. They thought he was joking."

Leroux, 24, of 560 Walsh St., pleaded no contest in Lucas County Common Pleas Court Monday to reckless homicide and to having a weapon under disability for the shooting death of the Ruiz youth.

As part of the plea agreement, the gun specification attached to the homicide charge was lowered from a mandatory three years in prison to one year.

He faces up to 11 years in prison when sentenced May 18 by Judge Linda Jennings.

The incident occurred in an upstairs room at 2132 South Ave., near Airport Highway, just after midnight. Mr. Lastra said the two were among a group of friends socializing. There were no disputes or quarrels between the pair, he said.

Leroux and the teenager were sitting opposite each other in the bedroom.

Mr. Lastra said Leroux was handling a handgun and, at some point, pointed it at the teenager's chest.

He pulled the trigger and fired once.

Attorney Jerry Phillips said after the hearing Leroux believed the gun was empty because the magazine had been taken out. However, one bullet remained.

"This was just friends sitting around talking and it resulted in the death of somebody. It's a tragedy," Mr. Phillips said.

The second charge was a result of a misdemeanor drug conviction on Leroux's record. Mr. Phillips said that although the charge usually is prosecuted against those with felony records, his client did not argue against it in this case.

"He was just showing off," Mr. Phillips said. "He had a gun and not realizing the potential consequences, not realizing that it could go off, he was handling it."

The Ruiz youth's family declined to comment.

According to police, four people were in the home when the victim was shot. When police arrived, the injured teen was on the front porch and his friends were performing CPR on him.

At the time, witnesses told police that the Ruiz youth had been shot in a drive-by shooting.

But evidence at the scene, including a blood trail inside, indicated that the shooting occurred in an upstairs bedroom.

Leroux was arrested the next day.

- Erica Blake



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