Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater man gets 10 years for shooting at toddler 'in jest'

LARGO — A 23-year-old Clearwater man was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison because he aimed a shotgun at his 20-month-old daughter "in jest" and pulled the trigger.

Justin Gallagher apparently thought the shotgun was unloaded when he aimed it at his daughter, police said in October. His daughter lost more than half of her ear after the blast but survived.

Gallagher was not supposed to have a weapon at all, because he is a felon.

Janet Pettyjohn, the grandmother of Gallagher's wife, said the incident was devastating for the entire family. She said Gallagher "absolutely loved" his daughter and never meant to hurt her.

Still, she said, it was "stupidity" for him to have a gun under the circumstances. Asked if there was a message to arise from the case, she said, "the only message that comes out is do what you're told to do. The guns should be locked up and away."

Gun safety experts say never to point firearms at people, even if you think the gun is unloaded.

The prison sentence was part of an agreement worked out with prosecutors. Gallagher pleaded guilty to aggravated child abuse and being a felon in possession of a firearm, reduced from the previous charge of attempted felony murder.

Defense attorney Frank Louderback said the plea agreement was fair, especially considering that Gallagher could have faced up to life in prison.

Pettyjohn said Gallagher's daughter is "a very intelligent little baby girl."

A version of this story appears in some regional editions of the Times

Clearwater man gets 10 years for shooting at toddler 'in jest' 09/20/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 10:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Races are reversed in a police killing, and again a family asks: Why?


    MINNEAPOLIS — There was something bad going on in the alleyway behind the house, she told her fiancé on the phone, someone who sounded as if she was in distress, maybe a rape. It was past 11 p.m., and most people on Washburn Avenue were furled in their beds.

    joint cutline 1 inch 1 inch of body type 1 inch 1 inch of body type 1 inch 1 inch of body type 1 inch 1 inch of body type 1 inch 1 inch of body type 1 inch 1 inch
  2. The battle for Venezuela, through a lens and gas mask


    CARACAS, Venezuela — Motley throngs of masked anti-government protesters hurl rocks, fireworks and Molotov cocktails. Police and soldiers retaliate with tear gas, water cannon blasts, rubber bullets and buckshot.

    An uprising is brewing in Venezuela.

    Antigovernment protesters use a giant slingshot to launch glass jars ?   some filled with paint, others with feces ?   at police on the streets of Caracas, Venezuela, May 20, 2017. Nearly every day for more than three months, a ragtag group of protesters calling themselves El Resistencia have taken to the streets to vent fury at President Nicol??s Maduro’s government. (Meridith Kohut/The New York Times) XNYT104
  3. Romano: Sinkholes take Florida's quirks to a whole 'nother level

    Public Safety

    So all of this — the beaches, palm trees and fresh grouper sandwiches — comes with a few extenuating costs. To live in Florida is to accept a lifestyle of hazards, both peculiar and deadly. Lightning strikes and hurricanes, for example. Alligators and sharks, too. Floods, drug traffickers, spring break and …

    Two days after a sinkhole opened in front of her Spring Hill home in 2014, Linda Fisher packs up to leave for good.
  4. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 18: Despite feeling ill, this pilgrim passes the midpoint in her 500-mile journey on foot


    Day 18: Lédigos to El Burgo Ranero: 34.3 km, 12.25 hours (Total for Days 1-18 = 428 km (266 miles)

    Today was a struggle.

  5. Former Rays/current Cubs manager Joe Maddon featured on NBC Sunday news show


    Former Rays and current Cubs manager Joe Maddon will be featured on this week's "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly" show at 7 p.m. on NBC, the Harry Smith interview covering not just Maddon's on-field accomplishments but his extensive efforts to help his hometown of Hazleton, Pa.

    "Here's what's so …

    Joe Maddon talking with NBC News' Harry Smith.