UNIONTOWN, Pa. — A volunteer fire captain in Pennsylvania has been sentenced to six to 23 months in jail for what a judge called “grossly negligent” conduct that resulted in the shooting death of a junior firefighter last year.
George Matis Jr., 22, was sentenced Friday for the November shooting death of 16-year-old Parker Hess. He pleaded guilty in July to involuntary manslaughter.
State police say the two were among a group that had gathered at the Republic Volunteer Fire Company station for Redstone Township’s “Light Up Night” holiday celebration. Police say Matis was removing his 9mm handgun from a holster when it discharged, striking Hess in the cheek. The teenager was pronounced dead at the scene.
Fayette County President Judge John F. Wagner Jr. said he thought long and hard before sentencing Matis. He said no malice or premeditation was involved in the case, but the shooting also wasn’t considered accidental.
“Clearly, this was grossly negligent handling of a firearm,” Wagner said.
Defense attorney James Davis said his client was sorry and expressed condolences to Hess’ family. He said Matis has been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. Davis had sought a term of intermediate punishment and house arrest in lieu of jail time.
The boy’s grandmother, Sharon Cooper Hess, said her other grandchildren looked up to Parker and considered him a hero. She said her grandson planned to join the military and serve his country.
“Parker’s life meant something to a lot of people,” she said.
The teen’s mother, Heather Hess, said she saw little remorse on the part of the defendant and doesn’t believe her son got justice.
“I don’t think my son will ever have justice because while (Matis) went out of here in handcuffs, I go to the cemetery every day to visit my child,” she said.