Man gets 5 years for accidental shooting death of fellow Marine from Karlstad
It was a dream career cut short at age 20.
KARLSTAD, Minn. — It was New Year's Day 2019. Riley Kuznia had just finished up his guard shift at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., when a fellow Marine pointed a gun at him while joking and pulled the trigger. He didn't realize there was still a bullet in the chamber.
"It's been a struggle. We really haven't gotten to mourn yet," said Riley's mother, Markelle Kuznia.
She said her family has been waiting for the past year and a half to find out what happened.
"It's heartbreaking. You see all of his buddies moving on and making full Marine careers," Markelle said.
20-year-old Riley's career was just beginning to blossom, but it came to a tragic end when Lance Cpl. Andrew Johnson accidentally shot him with his Marine-issued Beretta pistol.
"Devastated knowing that the last seconds of his life were him trying to swat the gun away from Andrew Johnson. Devastating that he had to try and protect himself against a Marine, somebody he considered a brother," Markelle said.
Johnson was recently sentenced to five years in military prison for involuntary manslaughter. He was looking at anywhere from three to seven years.
"We have to let it go. There has to be a point in our lives that we have to let it go. It's not enough," said Markelle.
Also part of this case were four other charges against Johnson, including a history of gun play even hours before the deadly shooting.
"He has no respect for the Marine Corps, his brotherhood and our country," Riley's father, Adam, said. "If Johnson's improper actions would have been addressed, my son, Riley, would still be serving the country he so loved."
In his short career Riley positively influenced many, evident by the hundreds of impact statements written by family, friends and fellow Marines.
"There were people from boot camp who said they would not have gotten through without him. He was so strong. He was just a leader," Markelle said.
With this chapter now closed, Riley's family says that they can finally begin to mourn while keeping Riley's legacy alive. The family says they still don't know all of the details regarding Riley's death, but now that the case is closed they hope to receive the full military investigation in a few weeks.
"We have to move on. We did everything in our power to get justice for Riley; it's not going to happen. It can either eat us alive or we move on and we remember Riley for who he was, because Andrew Johnson doesn't deserve any more of our time," Markelle said.