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Sentencing set for shooting death

BRADENTON — A Bradenton man is scheduled to be sentenced today on felony charges stemming from the shooting death of a Manatee High School student last fall.

Earlier this month, Kyle Bolles, 20, pleaded no contest to charges of manslaughter by culpable negligence with a firearm and aggravated assault with a firearm in connection to the Oct. 11, 2007, slaying of 18-year-old Francisco Vazquez.

Sentencing is set at 2:45 p.m. today before Circuit Judge Janette Dunnigan.

“Kyle is a young man who made a mistake who is worth saving,” Bolles’ attorney Mark Lipinski, said Sunday night.

The shooting, Lipinski said, was accidental. He said prosecutors have said they plan to recommend a 10-year prison sentence to the judge.

Vazquez’s death was initially ruled accidental by Manatee County Sheriff’s Office investigators.

But that changed when Vazquez’ ex-girlfriend gave a very different account from what Bolles initially said happened, authorities say.

When Vazquez was found in Bolles’ bedroom in the 3700 block of Seventh Avenue West, he had a bullet wound in his head.

Bolles and the ex-girlfriend said they had been “hanging out,” listening to music. Bolles said he climbed on top of his bunk bed to retrieve his rifle. He said it slipped from his hand, causing it to go off. Vazquez’s ex-girlfriend initially corroborated Bolles’ story but later changed her account.

She said the three had gone into Bolles’ room and started listening to music. The ex-girlfriend said she was lying with Vazquez on the bottom bunk when Bolles climbed onto the upper bunk to get the rifle.

She said Bolles then crouched in front of them and pointed the rifle in her face, telling her to stop singing, the sheriff’s report said.

Then he pointed the rifle in Vazquez’s face, still looking at the girl, the witness said. “Be quiet or I’ll shoot him,” Bolles said, according to the witness.

“Don’t worry, it’s only a blank clip,” Vazquez said, before the gun went off, hitting him in the forehead, the witness said. Vazquez died the next day at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg.

An autopsy showed the muzzle of the rifle would have been no more than six inches away from Vazquez’s forehead when fired, authorities said.