While sentencing former IU student Jason Cox on Wednesday for accidentally shooting his roommate in the face in 2016, Judge Kenneth Todd called his decision “impossible.”
On the one hand, Trenton Kirchmeier was shot in the face at close range on Nov. 9, 2016, and he suffered permanent damage to his mouth and vocal cords. On the other, Cox showed remorse for the shooting, and no one disputed his claim the shooting was accidental.
After a speech to the court about forgiveness and justice that lasted more than five minutes, Todd finally gave Cox a two-and-a-half-year sentence. He pleaded guilty in January to criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon and pointing a firearm at another person.
“There is not one thing I can do that will change what’s happened,” Todd said. “There are some things that are absolutely impossible, and this is one of those things. Just impossible.”
Cox said the ordeal began when he and Kirchmeier decided to stay home drinking Nov. 9, 2016, upset that Donald Trump had been elected president.
Cox drank all day, and right before Cox planned to go to bed, Kirchmeier and his girlfriend stepped outside to smoke.
Cox said the roommates had a sort of game where they pretended to be paranoid about people breaking into their vehicles outside. He thought pointing the gun at Kirchmeier through the blinds of a window would be part of the game.
When he moved to pull the gun away after the joke, Cox said, it caught in the blinds, but his hand kept moving back. Cox said this pulled the trigger.
“It was a stupid decision that led to all this,” Cox said in court, crying. “I know nothing I could ever say could to make it better. I’m sorry — I really am.”
The bullet tore through Kirchmeier’s mouth, shattering his upper palate, knocking out multiple teeth and severing his left carotid artery.
He was rushed to IU Health Bloomington Hospital then airlifted to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Doctors told his parents to prepare for the worst when he went into surgery.
That day, Kirchmeier lost all the blood in his body three times over, and his mom said it was a one-in-a-million miracle that he survived.
“It could easily have been involuntary manslaughter,” Cinta Putra, Kirchmeier’s mother, said.
A statement from Kirchmeier was read Wednesday in court. He chose not to appear in person, his father said, because writing the statement had already been traumatic.
Kirchmeier said in the statement he remembers little from the night he was shot except drifting in and out of consciousness and feeling like a dying animal lying a pool of his own blood.
After his initial surgeries, doctors wired his mouth shut, leaving him unable to drink or talk for weeks. He couldn’t scream, either, so his family gave him an air horn to use in case of emergencies.
If he felt the urge to puke, Kirchmeier was told to cut the wires himself or else he’d choke on his own vomit. He weight dwindled from 190 to 130 pounds at his lowest point because he couldn't eat solid food. He is over 6 feet tall.
Kirchmeier, now back at IU, will graduate a year late. His sister, Abby Kirchmeier, said in court that her brother previously told his family how the idea of staying behind in Bloomington while his friends and girlfriend move on made him feel it would’ve been easier if he had died in 2016.
“Jason Cox took so much away from me,” Trenton Kirchmeier said in his statement to the court. “I pray you do the same to him.”
Todd said this sort of retribution isn’t the point of court proceedings, but the magnitude of the crime’s effects led him to give Cox the maximum sentence.
“I’m sorry for you,” Todd said, gesturing to Kirchmeier’s family.
“I’m sorry for you,” he said also, gesturing to Cox.
“It’s a sad day,” Todd added. “It’s a sad time.”
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