BRADENTON -- A Bradenton man has been found not guilty in the 2014 death of his roommate.
Kyle Guessford was charged with manslaughter with a firearm in the fatal shooting of his roommate Austin Brunson on June 7, 2014. Initially, investigators considered Brunson's death an accident, but charges were later filed by the State Attorney's Office after it determined he was negligent when he pointed a loaded gun at Brunson and pulled the trigger.
There was an eruption of emotion in the courtroom, when Senior Circuit Judge Stephen Dakan read the verdict as family and friends sitting behind Guessford rejoiced.
Afterward, Guessford, who has moved to North Carolina since the shooting, exchanged embraces with family, friends and defense attorney Brett McIntosh.
"I am so thankful and I am so sorry for everybody that has had to deal with this and I am so grateful for the support I have had from everybody," Guessford said outside the courthouse. "It's still something we have to deal with for the rest of our lives. I've lost my best friend and I'm still so happy it came out the way it should have."
It has been a tremendously emotional case, McIntosh said.
"Kyle is truly a wonderful young man," he said. "The young man that lost his life was a wonderful young man, too."
The case showed the strength of the jury system, McIntosh said, adding that he felt they made the right decision finding his client not guilty. He also hoped that the case could act as an important lesson.
"It's so important to know what can go wrong so fast when people are handling guns," McIntosh said.
Those supporting Guessford in the courtroom included the victim's mother, aunt and step-father who were pleased with the verdict, saying it was what he would have wanted.
On the other side of the courtroom, other relatives of the victim disagreed. As the judge warned against any further outburst, Brunson's father and stepmother walked out of the courtroom.
Afterward, the victim's brother said it was obvious that there were different points of view among his family.
"I think we are all just happy that we can move on," Chris Brunson said. "I think some of the facts in the case were distorted, nonetheless it's over."
The jury had made the decision, he said.
His borther's death "could have been prevented with using common sense," Brunson said. "But there is no law against not using common sense."
Brunson recalled how Guessford was referred to as his brother's best friend throughout the trial.
"He touched a lot of people. My brother was a number of people's best friends. He was my best friend, my father's best friend," he said. "He was an honorable human being that was taken away far too soon."
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.