Oakland man sentenced to 20 months for ‘possessing’ bullet that he accidentally shot into his own groin

OAKLAND — An Oakland man has been sentenced to 20 months in federal prison for possessing ammunition with which he accidentally shot himself in the groin area, court records show.

Nicolas West, 23, pleaded guilty last June to being a felon in possession of ammunition in connection with the July 7, 2021 shooting. Video footage showed him firing several shots at an assailant who opened fire outside a liquor store near the intersection of 77th and Bancroft Avenues, prosecutors say. The sentence was handed down late last month.

Federal prosecutors argued for a three-year prison term, writing in a sentencing brief that West “recklessly fired multiple rounds of ammunition across a roadway without regard for passersby.”

West’s attorney, assistant federal public defender Joyce Leavitt, wrote that West had grown up around gun violence and was “deeply traumatized” as a child. She said he recognizes the seriousness of the crime but that he was a victim too. She wrote that in light of the incident he has “reassessed his life choices.”

“It cannot be stated enough that Mr. West is a victim in this case. An assailant drove by and shot at Mr. West and others, killing another person,” Leavitt wrote. She later added, “Mr. West recognizes that he should not have fired a gun…But Mr. West’s attempt to defend himself is understandable even if it is not acceptable.”

Police say there were at least three shooters, and that 49-year-old Johnny Armstrong was shot and killed during the gun battle. It is unclear whether he was a bystander or the shooter’s intended target. Thus far, no one has been charged with killing Armstrong.

West was identified after he showed up to Highland Hospital for the gunshot wound, in the same outfit he was seen wearing on the liquor store’s surveillance video. He was not allowed to possess guns or ammunition due to a 2017 gun possession conviction, according to the complaint.

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