Marine sentenced to 5 years for fatally shooting Minnesota Marine
The family of a fallen Minnesota Marine says they finally have some closure after the fellow Marine who killed their son was sentenced in a military court.
Twenty-year-old Riley Kuznia, of Karlstad, was shot and killed in January 2019 inside Marine Barracks Washington. The shooter, Lance Corporal Andrew Johnson, was charged with murder and manslaughter.
Johnson agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter. Earlier this month, a military judge sentenced him five years in prison and handed down a dishonorable discharge.
A military investigation revealed Johnson pointed his pistol at Kuznia early in the morning New Year's Day, "pulling the trigger in jest," according to the charges.
"It's so senseless," said Markelle Kuznia, Riley's mother. "Nobody points a gun at somebody and thinks it's a joke."
Kuznia said Riley dreamt of becoming a Marine and serving his country. She added that the last 18 months have been difficult for the family and the small community where Riley grew up.
"We haven't been able to mourn, we haven't been able to really feel. We've been to busy trying to get justice for Riley," she said in an interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
After attending the sentencing hearing, Kuznia said the judge's decision was an important but disappointing moment. Johnson addressed the family in court, explaining what happened that night.
"It was really hard for us to hear because he had so many excuses for his actions," she said. "For me, an apology means that you're taking full responsibility for your actions. It's not, 'well this happened,' or 'this happened.' It's, 'I take full responsibility for my actions and I'm truly sorry for them,' and we never heard anything like that."
The five-year prison sentence for manslaughter is significant, according to military and veteran affairs attorney Mike Millios, but the long-term impacts of the dishonorable discharge will create "tremendous hurdles" for Johnson.
"The dishonorable discharge is the worst of any discharge you can get," Millios said. "It will essentially strip him of any of the benefits that he earned in his service and it carries a lifelong stigma."
For Kuznia, keeping Riley's memory and legacy alive will be their focus moving forward.
"We need to move on," she said. "We're going to do everything we can so that Riley's never forgotten."